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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 13 July, 2021

  • 7 Min Read

Assam's Prevention of Cattle Bill- Provisions & Critical Analysis

Assam's Prevention of Cattle Bill- Provisions & Critical Analysis

The Assam government introduced the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill 2021 to bring in more stringent measures to check the slaughter of cattle in the state.

Assam already has existing cow protection laws. The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1951 (Later amended to Assam Cattle Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1962) lays down provisions for bulls, bullocks, cows, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves

The new bill’s key proposals can be summarised as follows:

  • Obtaining “fit for slaughter certificate” from a Veterinary Officer
  • Such a certificate cannot be given for cows.
  • It also protects heifer or calves under the age of 14 years. Other types of cattle can be slaughtered only if they are over 14 years of age, or have become permanently incapacitated from work, breeding, accidental injury or deformity.
  • The Veterinary Officer is required to maintain records of reason for refusal to grant permission for slaughter for future reference and inspection by a “prescribed authority” appointed by the state government.
  • This prescribed authority has been granted wide powers under section 5 of this Bill to “at any time for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such certificate or order for refusal or such certificate issued by a Veterinary Officer under this section, call for the examination of the record of any case and may pass orders thereon as it deems fit.”
  • Cattle for which a certificate has been granted can only be slaughtered at a licensed slaughterhouse recognised under a Central or State Act.
  • The state government can exempt certain places of worship or certain occasions for the slaughter of cattle (other than cow, heifer or calves) for religious purposes.

Transportation of cattle

  • A valid permit is required to transfer cattle within Assam as well as across state lines.
  • Transportation of cattle from outside the state or within the state to a place within the state where cattle slaughter is punishable under the Act is prohibited.
  • Cattle transportation must be carried in accordance with provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • Exceptions are made for transporting cattle for grazing, agriculture, animal husbandry purposes or sale in an animal market.
  • A permit has to be obtained for transport of cattle for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes
  • A record of all permit issued and reasons for rejection will be maintained for future reference and inspection by the state government or any officer appointed by it.
  • A person will be deemed to be transporting cattle for the purpose of slaughter unless contrary is proved to the satisfaction of the concerned authority or officer, by the person who has to show that he has obtained the permit for transportation for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.
  • In case of violation of these provisions, the transporter can be detained and his vehicle seized.

Purchase and sale of beef

  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jian, Sikh or other non-beef eating communities.
  • Purchase or sale of beef is prohibited within a 5 km radius of a temple, satra or religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion or any other institution or area as may be prescribed by the competent authority.

Punishment for violation of provisions

  • No person accused of an offense punishable under this Act, if in custody, can be released on bail or on his own bond, unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release.
  • Those found guilty can be incarcerated for 3- 8 years, and also fined between Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.
    Repeat offenders can expect to be faced with double the penalty.

Problematic elements in the new Bill

  • This Bill has certain provisions that can be misused to harass people, particularly those hailing from beef-eating communities.
  • If a new temple or satra is built in any area, automatically a 5 km radius around it becomes a no-beef zone, thus causing inconvenience to beef-eating residents of the area. This can once again be used as a strategy to push beef-eating communities into ghettos and further marginalise them.
  • Placing the burden of proof that cattle are being transported for agriculture or animal husbandry on the transporter of the cattle also makes them vulnerable to surveillance or even attacks by cow-protection groups.
  • The Bill also gives wide powers to the police to enter and inspect premises where they suspect any offense under the Act is being committed. This can be used as an intimidation tactic against minorities.
  • Imprisonment for 3-8 years appears harsh and a fine of Rs 3-5 lakhs is rather steep. Dairy farmers cant be expected to pay such large amounts as fines
  • Finally, Assam shares its border with Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, states where beef is consumed. If cattle transporters passing through Assam are under constant scrutiny, this could affect beef supply in these neighbouring states.

Source: TH


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