This article is written by Josia Renglallir Sakachep and Rajeev Malakar.
The BJP led government of Karnataka which passed the bill of The Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter, 2020 in the state legislature which was faced with a stiff opposition from the opposition parties as it brought in the bill which will completely ban the slaughter of cattle. Cattles means cow, buffaloes, the calf of a cow, bull, bullock and he or she buffalo below the age of 13 years according to section 2 clause 2 of the bill below the age of 13, it also made the abetment of the bill as a cognizable offence, restrictions of the cattle transportation both internally and externally. The previous Act named The Anti Cow Slaughter Act of 1964 permits the slaughter of buffaloes with a special permit from the government.
The bill also goes on to suggest more severe punishments for the abettors of the rules as stated in section 4, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, custom, or usage to the contrary, no person shall slaughter or cause to be slaughtered, or offer or cause for slaughter or otherwise intentionally kill or offer or cause to be offered for killing any cattle.” the bill stated that anyone found slaughtering cows and buffaloes without the authorization of the authorities, found in possession of beef while raided by the police personnel shall be punished for not less than 3 years imprisonment which might extend to seven years and also a hefty fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees and a which may extend up to five lakhs or with both.
With India’s uniqueness of rich in diversity and its vast population with different caste, creed, religion, which co-existed since ages of which each community has a unique way of life practice, etc. and also India being one of the top exporters of beef with India’s contribution of 13.4 percent of the export contribution (According to source 2020). This article is written to discuss whether it violates Article 19(g) of the Constitution of India and Article 21 which secures the right to life and the right to personal liberty and does the government has the right to invade the right of an individual arbitrarily?
Under Indian Constitution
Article 19(g) of the Constitution of India which is stated as, “to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.” means that a citizen of India can practice any profession of the person’s choice. However, the Bill brought by the BJP led government of Karnataka in the state legislature which will be a deliberate violation of Article 19(g) on many professionals who are engaged directly with the slaughter of cows and buffaloes and the manufacturing of things from its various body parts and moreover in the case of Chintaman Rao v. State of MP (1951 AIR 118) when an Act of the government empowered the Deputy Commissioner to prohibit the manufacture of bidis, the SC held that any law that arbitrarily or excessively invades the right of any person cannot be said to contain the quality of reasonableness and hence it is void. In the following case, the action of the government was arbitrary as they had not consulted anyone before passing the ordinance which should only be passed in emergency situations but here no such urgent need arose.
Haji Usman Bhai Qureshi v. State of Gujarat
In the Supreme court case of Haji Usman Bhai Qureshi v. State of Gujarat, Gujarat (1980 AIR 1213), the SC held that those cattle which are useless and are a drain on the nation’s resources, feeding those cattle and their maintenance leads to the deprivation of useful cattle of the needed nourishment which becomes detrimental to the limited resource pool. Therefore, in that sense, the ban on slaughter cannot be considered to be reasonable. Further, an Indian Express report states that beef is consumed by a large number of people from low-income groups for its nourishment. A large number of Dalits and Christians also consume it as only 30 percent of the beef is consumed by the Muslim population. Therefore, a ban on sell and purchase according to section 7 would be detrimental to the interests and public health of a large section of poor people.
Kala Miah & Ors. v. SC Roy & Ors.
Furthermore, in the Calcutta HC case of Kala Miah & Ors. v. SC Roy & Ors. (AIR 1964 Cal 49) where it was held by Justice D Sinha that the said article speaks about freedom of trade based on geographical classification, “freedom is secured in regards to barriers impeding trade, commerce and intercourse between one state or another or one territory and another within or without the same state.” Since section 8 of the bill restricts the transport of cattle for slaughter within and outside the state, it clearly violates the provisions of Article 301 of Part XIII of Indian Constitution and in that sense, it is ultra vires.
Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Others v. State of Bihar
The Supreme Court of India in the important case of Mohd. Hanif Quereshi (1958 AIR 731) held that though there cannot be a blanket ban on the slaughter of cattle as would lead to the extinction of the trade of beef butchers for their daily sustenance. So, for that there is an exemption in Section 18 of the act which states that buffalo above the age of 13 years can be slaughtered after certification from the competent authority.
Moreover, in the above case the court held the importance of restrictions on Article 19(1)(g) as states can make reasonable restrictions on the interests of the general public. Further in the case when the petitioners claimed the sacrifice of cows to be an essential religious practice, the court dismissed the contention by saying that on the day of Bakr Id many Muslims do not sacrifice a cow. The Court was conscious enough to recall the wisdom of many Mughal emperors who banned cow slaughter ranging from Babar to Jehangir. Hence, as all these emperors realized the importance of cows for communal harmony, it is high time for us also to recognize it.
And also Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to protection of life and personal liberty, the right to life and personal liberty is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental of all rights which includes the right to livelihood, privacy, personal liberty, etc. as it comes in its ambit.
The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment in the case of Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985 AIR 180) famous as “The Pavement Dweller Case” implied that the right to livelihood is borne out of the right to the right to life as no person can live without means of living, that is the means of livelihood, the Hon’ble Court observed that, “The state by affirmative action, be compelled to provide adequate means of livelihood or work to the citizens. But, any person who is deprived of his right to livelihood except according to just and fair procedure established by law can challenge it the deprivation as offending the right to life conferred in Article 21.” and moreover in the case of Munn v. Illinois, Justice Field stated that, “By the term life as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed.” and moreover it stated that depriving a person of his livelihood is depriving a person of his life. Therefore it can be inferred that the new bill will in a way deprive the professionals who have been and only engaged in cattle-related profession will be violated of their right to live which falls under Article 21 and also Article 19(g) of the Constitution of India.
In the following case, the action of the government was arbitrary as they had not consulted anyone before passing the ordinance which should only be passed in emergency situations but here no such urgent need arose hence the procedure isn’t fair and deemed to be void in the eye of the law following the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the above-stated case of Chintaman Rao v. State of MP (1951 AIR 118).
In total, we can conclude that it is a fact that India is very diverse with six major religions practiced, more than 1500 tribes recognized by the government, around 19,500 dialects spoken over the country, and each community with its unique culture makes it one of the most diverse countries in the world. Keeping all these in mind the Constitution-makers were very careful while making The Constitution of India, every Article was articulated to safeguard the rights of the citizens at the same time maintaining brotherhood amongst all the citizens and to keep away the feelings of alienation or polarization by any communities by imbibing just and unbiased rule.
However, one of the most recent bills introduced by the BJP led government in the Karnataka legislature of Anti Cow slaughter with strict rules with a very meagre which aims to completely ban the slaughter of cows and buffalos below the age of 13 years has violated Article 19(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India as it will directly hit the professionals associated with cow slaughter and manufacturing of commercial goods from the body parts of cows.
Keeping in mind the large population of the Hindu people residing in India who regard cow as holy and very sacred, the government can introduce bills which will please both the sides by limiting the slaughter of cows with a special permit in specific sites with the strict regulation of the government which was earlier followed after the passing of the Act “The anti cow slaughter” of 1964 which will not affect the professionals associated with the business of cows and will also boost our economy as beef exports contributes a good chunk to our GDP growth as well as the Hindus who regard the cow as holy and sacred and thus creating communal harmony as envisaged by the Constitution-makers of India.
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