THE contentious Cow-Slaughter Bill was okayed on March 19 by the legislative assembly amid dramatic scenes. Even after more than four-and-a-half hours of discussion, the Opposition demanded the withdrawal of the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010, stating it was anti-people and anti-minority.
But the government defended the Bill that sought to protect cow wealth. The Opposition was apprehensive that a particular community was being targeted, and also feared harassment and corruption as more power would be vested with officials, especially the local sub-inspectors. The Bill stated that slaughter of a cow, calf, bull, bullock, buffalo was completely banned in the state. There was also prohibition of sale, usage and possession of beef and restriction on transport of cattle. It said a police official had the authority to search and seize cattle. The law provided for imprisonment from one year to seven years, with a fine of Rs 25,000-Rs 50,000.
Defending the Bill, Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa said, “We have brought this Bill to replace the 1964 Act and protect cattle. Similar Bills are in operation in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir.” The Opposition leader of Congress Party Siddaramaiah said, “The Bill is against the secular character of the Constitution and it forces non-vegetarians to become vegetarians. It will impact cost of living and food problems will increase.” Speaker KG Bopaiah announced that the Bill was passed by voice vote, while the Opposition members tore copies of the Bill.
The Bill was originally titled the Karnataka Samskrita Veda Vishwavidyalaya Bill, 2009, but the government said “Veda” would be dropped when it is tabled in the Legislative Council following objection by DK Shivakumar (Congress), who argued that the study of Vedas is a separate subject.
After more than a four-hour debate, the Bill was passed by voice-vote as the entire Opposition — Congress and JD(S) —trooped into the well of the House and shouted anti-government slogans, branding the BJP government “communal”.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, who termed the legislation “draconian”, “anti-secular” and “unconstitutional”, tore a copy of the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010 and threw it in the air.
Earlier, Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa defended the Bill, saying it was aimed at protecting cows and preserve cattle in Karnataka. A number of states, already had similar legislation, he added. Cow slaughter ban is in force in Cuba and Iran, Yeddyurappa said, and highlighted the medicinal benefits of cow urine, which have been proved by research. The Bill prohibits slaughter of cattle, sale, usage and possession of beef, puts restriction on transport of cattle and also prohibits sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter.
The offence is punishable with imprisonment not less than one year, which may extend up to seven years or fined between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 or both; second and subsequent offence would attract a fine of not less than Rs 50,000 up to Rs one lakh along with imprisonment penalty.
The Bill was intended to replace the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves of she-buffaloes, bull, buffalo male or female. It is also aimed at preservation and improvement of the breeds of cattle and to endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry in terms of Article 48 of the Constitution.
The Bill provides for stringent punishment for violation of the act, and also provides for powers to search and seizure of any premises including vessel or vehicle.
Home Minister VS Acharya said the Bill was “in tune with the sentiments of the majority community”, as per the election manifesto of the BJP, and the judgements of Supreme Court and High Court.
Siddaramaiah said such a bill can be enacted only in “Hitler’s regime” and not in democracy. “Is yours a Hitler’s regime?” he asked.
The BJP government, he charged, is thrusting “vegetarian culture” on the people, adding, if the Bill was passed, the price of mutton per kg would shoot up to Rs 1,000 from the present Rs 260 or so.
By this act, those dependent on the products such as shoes, leather, belts, nail polish, films, buttons and other beef products would lose their jobs. “You are making their life miserable”, he said. As several Opposition members flayed the Bill in the debate that saw sparks fly, Siddaramaiah cautioned it would create “disturbance” in society and have an adverse impact on harmony.
Defending the bill, CT Ravi (BJP) said there would be severe shortage of milk in Karnataka in future if the current rate of cow slaughter continued in the state. JD(S) leader HD Revanna said the BJP brought the Bill keeping in view its “vote bank”.
Roshan Baig (Congress) expressed shock over the provision for a seven-year imprisonment in the act. “Don’t try to implement hidden agenda”, he told the BJP government, adding, the 1964 Act was good enough
Going a step ahead, Clause 5 prohibits not only slaughter, but also “usage and possession of beef”, which would practically mean a complete ban on beef eating. Clause 8 states that not only slaughter, but “sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter” when the seller or buyer in question has “reason to believe that such cattle shall be slaughtered” will be deemed as committing crime.
In fact, any perceived “abetment” of slaughter or attempt to slaughter will also be punishable under the new law. Clause 14 of the Bill clearly states that “whoever abets any offence punishable under the Act or attempts to commit any such offence” also attracts punishment. This Clause leaves wide room for interpretation, and indeed misuse, on what exactly amounts to abetment.
There is a huge difference in nature of punishment as well, with the Bill introducing a penalty clause (Clauses 12 and 13) that did not exist in the earlier Act. It deems slaughter or “cause to slaughter” of cattle a “cognizable and non-bailable” offence triable by the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class.
Opening the doors for what could eventually turn out to be privatisation of cattle protection, Clause 18 of the Bill says that the government may direct associations and organisations to establish places to take care of cattle. It further says that the government “may levy such fees as may be prescribed for the maintenance of such institutions”.
The Bill makes two deletions in the 1964 Act. It replaces the word “authorised persons” with “competent authority” and gives powers only to officers of the government to inspect or book cases. While the earlier Act said that district judge was the last appellate authority, the law has removed this cap.