A Rajasthan High Court judge on Wednesday asked the state’s BJP government to take necessary steps to get cow declared the national
animal and ensure its slaughterers were punished with life imprisonment.
In a direction that could further fuel the deeply divisive debate over beef consumption and vigilantism in the name of cow protection, Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma said the state’s chief secretary and advocate general would be the legal custodians of cow.
“Nepal is a Hindu nation (sic) and has declared cow as national
animal. India is a predominantly agricultural country based on animal rearing. As per Article 48 and 51A (g) of the Constitution, it is expected from the state government that they would take action to get a legal entity for cow in this country,” the judge said in the order.
He suggested that it was expected of the state government that it would amend the Rajasthan Bovine Animals Act 1995
to enhance punishment for cow slaughter from three years in jail to life imprisonment. Later, Justice Sharma told a TV news channel that his directions were recommendatory in nature and not binding. “It (action against those who kill cows) is the voice of my soul, your soul, everybody’s soul. Law has stemmed from ‘dharma’ (religion) and not vice-versa,” he said.
When the reporter asked him for the rationale behind declaring cow slaughter a heinous crime, he said, “There cannot be a more heinous crime than this. Cow is like mother. She saves people from different diseases.”
The directions were issued while the court was hearing a matter related to a government-run cow shelter where hundreds of animals had perished in Jaipur last year due to alleged neglect.
Justice Sharma’s suggestions came amid a firestorm of protests raging in several parts of the country, particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu against a new notification issued by the Centre banning sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter.
Beef prices have nearly doubled in the national
capital and its adjoining areas due to supply shortage.
In Kerala, where beef consumption is legal, the Leftist government discussed a proposal to call a meeting of all chief ministers to discuss the contentious ban. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
has been most vocal against the ban, and has refused to accept it. She has asked the state officials not to implement the provisions of the Centre’s notification.
The Kerala government’s proposal came days after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
had termed the ban “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular”, and shot off letters to his counterparts in other states asking them to “stand together” and oppose it. He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi
to withdraw the new regulations. “We want to call a meeting of all chief ministers to discuss the issue relating to the ban,” Vijayan told the reporters after a cabinet meeting. Asked if any date had been finalised for the proposed meeting, Vijayan said said he wanted it to be held at the earliest.
The government also decided to convene a special session of the state Assembly to deliberate on the issue after discussions with leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.
Vijayan said the state government couldn’t accept the new regulations. “This has to be questioned legally as it is unconstitutional,” he said in Thiruvananthapuram.