Assam’s New Cattle Protection Bill

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    The Assam Legislative Assembly tabled a new Bill to protect cattle that bars the sale and purchase of beef or beef products. 

    About

    • The bill prohibits sale and purchase of beef products in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non beef-eating communities, or within a radius of 5 kms of any temple or sattra (Vaishnavite monasteries).
    • This is a unique aspect of The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, which aims to regulateslaughter, consumption, illegal transportation” of cattle.

    Existing Legislation 

    • The already existing Assam Cattle Preservation Act 1950, regulates cattle slaughter in Assam, provided concerned veterinary officers give a fit-for-slaughter certificate. 
    • Slaughter of cattle that are over 14 years of age is conditionally allowed. 
    • It lacked sufficient legal provisions to “regulate slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle” and thus, will be repealed.

    Key Provisions of the Bill

    • Prohibiting slaughter of cattle: Section 4 of the Bill states, “no person shall slaughter or cause to be slaughtered, or offer or cause to be offered for the slaughter of any cattle”.
    • Certificate requirement: Section 5, adds that any cattle can only be slaughtered if a certificate in writing is issued by the registered veterniary officer, who shall be of the opinion that the cattle, not being a cow, is over 14 years of age and has “become permanently incapacitated”.
    • Regulating InterState Transport: Prohibiting inter-state transport of cattle to and from, as well as through Assam without valid documents, Section 7 of the Bill adds, “no person shall transport or offer for transport or cause to be transported any cattle, without valid permit, from:
      • Any place of another state through Assam to any place outside the state of Assam.
      • Any place within the state of Assam to any place outside the state of Assam where slaughter of cattle is not regulated by law.”
      • However, no permission is required to transport cattle for grazing or other agricultural or animal husbandry purposes, as well as to and from registered animal markets, within a district.
    • Curb smuggling: It is done to ban movement of cattle to check cattle smuggling to Bangladesh, which shares a 263-kilometre-long border with Assam. The 1950 Act lacked sufficient legal provisions to “regulate slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle” and thus it was imperative to enact a new legislation.
    • All cattle types are the same for Bill: it does not distinguish between different cattle types and is applicable to all cattle, including “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves.”
    • Punishment: Anybody found guilty can be jailed for a term of minimum three years (extendable up to eight years) and fined Rs 3 lakh (with the upper limit Rs 5 lakh), or both. For repeat offenders, the punishment will be doubled.
    • Exceptions: The proposed legislation, however, allows for certain exemptions — it won’t apply to “religious occasions” when “slaughter of cattle, not being a cow or heifer or calf” is allowed.

    Challenges

    • Ambiguity pertaining to 5 KM: Temples can be created anywhere and then regulating this pointer will create chaos and law and order problems. 
    • Increasing Polarisation: Such laws may create more partisan precedents leading to more communal conflicts.
    • All cattle types included: Assam’s proposed law also does not distinguish between different cattle types — it will apply to all cattle that includes “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves, male and female buffaloes and buffalo calves.” 
      • For purposes of the anti-slaughter Act, both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh include only cow progeny, but not buffaloes.

    Conclusion 

    • The legislation may lead to further intensification of the government’s move against cow smuggling to Bangladesh which is on through the porous international border and riverine areas along the international border for a long time.
    • The new legislation will repeal the 1950 Act where consumption of beef was not an offence. 

    Source: IE