A division bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Chief Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Manmohan directed the Government of Delhi to reconstitute the Board for supervision of the implementation of various provisions of Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act 1994, by October 31, 2010.
The directive came on September 15 on a writ petition (civil) filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in the form of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by Shri Mahesh Chandra Sharma and Shri Gopal Krishna Agrawal through their counsels Shri Aman Lekhi and Ms Monika Arora, against Government of Delhi and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). The counsel of the Government of Delhi Shri Nazimi Waziri was also present in the court when the bench issued the direction. The PIL was filed on September 20.
Earlier, counsel for the petitioner Ms Monika Arora submitted that Section 18 of the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act 1994 mandated the constitution of a Board for supervision of the implementation of various provisions of the Act. Though the Board was constituted in 1994 and it remained in existence till 1999, but for the last 11 years the Board has not been reconstituted. Hence, there is no Board in existence today.
The High Court held that it was irrelevant whether the Board was present earlier or not. What is important is that the Board should be in existence today as mandated by the statute.
The petitioners through their advocate Monika Arora had also served a legal notice to the Government of NCT of Delhi on May 15, 2010. The Government gave its reply on May 26, 2010 stating that it appreciated the efforts of the petitioners and further said that the matter had already been taken for reconstitution of the Board and sent to the competent authority on April 19, 2010. The government also replied that under the said Act, cow slaughter is banned and beef cannot be sold, processed and preserved in the Union Territory of Delhi.
According to the provisions of the Act, Minister incharge of the Department of Animal Husbandry, is chairman of the Board and Development Commissioner is Member Secretary. Three MLAs have to be nominated by the Government as Members. There are five non-official representatives of social and developmental organisations as Members. The government has to nominate five Government officials also as Members.
The law imposes a ‘total’ prohibition on the slaughter of cows, calves, bulls and bullocks defined as ‘agricultural cattle’. The law prohibits the transport or export, sale or purchase of agricultural cattle for slaughter. People who wish to export cattle for any other purpose to neighbouring states and Union Territories are required to take permission of the Veterinary Officer-in-charge, with details on purpose, age, sex and destination. The law prohibits the export of agricultural cattle to a State/Union Territory where slaughter of agricultural cattle is not banned by law. The offences are cognisable and non-bailable. The punishment is imprisonment up to five years and a fine which may be extended to Rs 10,000.
In the PIL, the petitioners had appealed to the High Court to direct the Government of Delhi to reconstitute the Board in order to protect the agricultural cattle as defined in the Act. They also urged the court to direct the government to establish institutions for reception, maintenance and care of Agricultural Cattle; to initiate steps for the preservation and protection of Agricultural Cattle as mandated by the Act and also recommended by the National Commission on Cattle in its voluminous and well researched report; to appoint National Cattle Commission as the Nodal Agency for monitoring and supervising the implementation of various provisions of the said Act and direct the MCD not to issue licence to those authorised slaughter houses under its supervision which are found to keep the meat of cow and its progeny.
It is to be noted that the then BJP government headed by Chief Minister Saheb Singh Verma had enacted this Act in 1994 with the objective of imposing ban on cow slaughter. The condition of negligence on the part of the State Congress government has been that when the issue of serving beef was raised in the last session of Delhi Assembly by BJP legislators the Chief Minister Smt Sheila Dikshit and Minister for Animal Husbandry Rajkumar Chauhan were unaware of the existence of any such Law in Delhi. Though the Government had assured the agitating BJP legislators that it would reconstitute the Board shortly, nothing concrete was done by it. That is why Shri Mahesh Chandra Sharma and Shri Gopal Krishna Agrawal knocked the door of High Court to force the government to reconstitute the Board. The reconstitution of this Board has become a dire need because the incidents of cow slaughter have assumed an alarming form in Delhi in the last one year. The reconstitution of this Board will help in arresting this menace.