The Karnataka state legislature passed the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2020 despite opposition from JD(S) and Congress who staged a walkout. The bill was passed without discussion and shall be law once approved by the Legislative council followed by the Governor.
What are the provisions of the new Bill?
The Bill bans the slaughter of all cattle except buffalos over the age of 13 years. The word 'cattle' includes cow, calves of a cow and bull, bullock and he or she buffalo below the age of thirteen years. Section 4 states, "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 to be offered for slaughter or otherwise intentionally kill or offer or cause to be offered for killing any cattle."
The penalty for cattle slaughter shall be imprisonment not less than three years but extendable up to 7 years and fine of not less than Rs 50000 per cow but extendable up to Rs 5 lakhs or both. In case of repeated offence, the penalty shall be a fine of not less than a lack and imprisonment up to 7 years.
The bill also prohibits the transport, sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter. It further adds stringent punishment for "smuggling, illegal transportation, atrocities on cows and slaughtering them."
The newly passed Bill is a revised and more stringent edition of the one passed by the BJP government under Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in 2010 which was shelved in 2013 by the Congress government once it failed to get the approval of the Governor.
What is the current law governing cow slaughter in the state?
The current bill, if passed, shall replace the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Animals Act, 1964, which banned the slaughter of cows, calves and she- buffaloes but permits the slaughter of bullock, buffalo-male or female if it was certified by a competent authority to be above the age of 12 years, incapacitated for breeding or sick.
What is the difference between Karnataka's new bill and anti-cow slaughter laws in other states?
Laws to prevent cow slaughter are in place in several states including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. However, all of these laws allow for the slaughter of buffaloes. However, the Karnataka Bill prohibits the slaughter of buffaloes under 13 as well.
What are the worrying provisions?
Alleging the new Bill to be anti-farmers, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president Kodihalli Chandrashekar told The News Minute, "Animal husbandry and farming go hand in hand. When a cow or buffalo stops producing milk, farmers sell it. Now we have to take care of it till it dies. If the cattle produce male calves, we generally sell them. Now we can't do that and this will add to existing agricultural costs. How many loans can we take?"
Section 8 (1)of the Bill states, "Where a Police Officer not below the rank of Sub-inspector or a competent authority has reason to believe that an offence under this act has been committed has the power to inspect and seize such cattle and premises and materials used or intended to be used for the commission of such offence." A 'reason to believe' shall suffice for search and seizure following which it shall be reported to Sub-Divisional Magistrate for confiscation.
Additionally, section 14 of the bill allows for all confiscated "cattle, vehicle, premises and materials" to be passed to the State government if the accused is convicted. While cattle will be admitted to gau-shalas, the premises may be sold at public auctions if the Magistrate so decides.
"Look at the search and seizure provisions, it gives anybody higher than the rank of a sub-inspector the right to search based on suspicion. This is draconian and a means to criminalise Muslims, Dalits and other minorities for their choice of food," said Bengaluru-based advocate-activist Vinay Sreenivasan, as reported by TNM.
Karnataka has witnessed several instances of cow vigilantism. Recently, in June 2020, 34-year-old cattle trader Muhammad Hanif was assaulted by Bajrang Dal activists. The police, who arrived later, booked Hanif under IPC Section 370 for cattle theft and for cruelty to animals.
Section 17 further immunises police personnel against answerability. It states, "No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall be instituted against the competent authority or any person exercising powers under this Act for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or the rules made thereunder."
"If at all they really want to stop it, the Union government has to take a stand on stopping these beef exports. And importantly, most of these exporters are from Gujarat and followers of Amit Shah and Modi," Congress spokesperson VS Ugrappa told news portal TNM. Ugrapa noted that India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world.
The Congress has alleged that the law shall be misused to polarise people on communal lines and target Muslims. It assured that if the Bill becomes a law, they shall move the court to oppose it.