The ban on cow slaughter

The provision in the Constitution to ban cow slaughter, Article 48, was conceived in deceit and executed through fraud.

Published : Jun 08, 2016 12:30 IST

At a cow shelter in Aangon village in Maharashtra.

At a cow shelter in Aangon village in Maharashtra.

THE Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, received the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on March 4, 2015. For 20 years, none of his predecessors in office thought it fit to accord the assent. R. Venkataraman mentions in his memoirs how he dealt with the Postal Bill, which his predecessor, Zail Singh, had refused to sign ( My Presidential Years , HarperCollins; pages 42, 84 and 335). He did not sign it. Apart from his signature on the proclamation to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, a patent abuse of power, Pranab Mukherjee’s assent in 2015 to a State Act of 1995 which flouts the citizen’s rights is a sorry lapse on his part.

At least two violations of the citizen’s fundamental rights in that Act of 1995 stare one in the face. The Bombay High Court struck down those provisions in a judgment delivered on May 6, 2016. Justice A.S. Oka wrote the main judgment in which he held that Section 5D of the Amendment Act of 1995 was unconstitutional as it violated the citizen’s fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution. It says: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Section 5D (1) of the Act reads: “No person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the State of Maharashtra” even if it was imported from a State which did not ban cow slaughter or from a foreign country. The law did not merely ban cow slaughter within Maharashtra. It also dictated to its people what they could not eat (emphasis added, throughout).

Justice S.C. Gupte wrote the judgment on another flaw. Section 9B reads: “In any trial for an offence punishable under Sections 9 or 9A”—which penalises any who breach the bans on slaughter of cow, bull or bullock—“for contravention of the provisions of this Act, the burden of proving that the slaughter, transport, export outside the State, sale, purchase or possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock was not in contravention of the provisions of this Act shall be on the accused. ” This is a reversal of the fundamental rule that the burden of proving the guilt of one accused of violating the law shall be on the prosecution, not the accused. Here he is required to prove a negative.

Both the judges, Justices A.S. Oka and S.C. Gupte, fully concurred with each other in judgments of admirable simplicity in language, cogency of logic and transparent fairness. They are bereft of any of the extravagant verbosity, rhetorical flourishes and irrelevant ornamental quotations which mar very many judgments of inordinate length pronounced by judges of the Supreme Court.

The flaws in the two provisions which they struck down as void—Sections 5D and 9B—hit one in the eye. Sadly, they escaped the notice of President Pranab Mukherjee. The two judges did not go further. They were bound by the judgment of a nine-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2015, which wantonly and in gross error overruled the judgment of a five-member bench of that court in 1958; needless to add, in order to make the ban on cow slaughter more comprehensive.

Monumental fraud

If the history of the Constituent Assembly’s adoption of the pertinent provisions of the Constitution on the subject is recalled, it will be seen that a monumental fraud has been perpetrated on the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution by the champions of a ban on cow slaughter.

Let us go back to the very beginning. The Draft Constitution prepared by Sir B.N. Rau, Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly, in October 1947 did not contain any provision on cow slaughter. The Draft Constitution prepared by the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, headed by Dr B.R. Ambedkar, did not contain any such provision either (for the texts, see B. Shiva Rao (ed.), The Framing of India’s Constitution , The Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, Vol. III, pages 4 and 509 respectively).

The latter draft was published on February 21, 1948, to elicit comments and suggestions. Pandit Thakurdas Bhargava and Seth Govind Das proposed this provision as Article 38A: “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and in particular take steps to preserve, protect and improve the useful breeds of cattle and ban the slaughter of cows and other useful cattle, specially milch cattle and of child-bearing age, young stock and draught cattle.”

This was too clever by half and the Drafting Committee noticed it. The verbiage on economics could not conceal religious zeal. The committee made this cryptic and revealing Note on that bright suggestion: “The Drafting Committee considered this amendment and was of opinion that it involved questions of policy.” This was in October 1948 (ibid., Vol. IV, page 56).

But the ground had been prepared by the communal forces within the Congress which sensed opportunities after the Partition. Bhargava was only the front man of these forces. Leading the pack was Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly of India and India’s first President. Fifty years ago, discussing his autobiography, one of India’s greatest editors Frank Moraes responded to the question, “Where would he [Rajendra Prasad] have been if not the Congress?” His answer was swift: “The Hindu Mahasabha.”

On August 7, 1947, just a week before Independence, Rajendra Prasad wrote a revealing letter to Jawaharlal Nehru:

“There are two points which I had for consideration at our meeting yesterday. I mentioned the agitation which is spreading with tremendous speed about the stopping of cow slaughter, but as everybody was in a hurry to go, the matter was not considered. I have been flooded with postcards, letters, packets and telegrams making demand that cow slaughter should be stopped by legislation.… The Hindu sentiment in favour of cow protection is old, widespread and deep-seated and it has taken no time to rouse at this moment to a pitch when it is difficult, if not impossible, to ignore it. I think that the matter does require consideration and we must take a decision whatever it is after due consideration. The Hindu feeling on account of recent happenings is very much agitated and this movement, like the movement in favour of Hindi, is bound to gain strength more rapidly than we can imagine” (Valmiki Choudhary (ed.), Dr Rajendra Prasad: Correspondence and Select Documents , Vol. 7, Allied, pages 91-92). Note that he made no pretences about the “economic factor”. It was religion alone that moved him.

The sophistry was left to Thakurdas Bhargava. The Constituent Assembly debated his amendment on November 24, 1948. By then the matter had been resolved in the Congress Assembly Party and the amendment had plain sailing, but only after the mover’s vital assurance: “without using any sort of coercion”. It was on the faith of this explicit assurance that the Constituent Assembly adopted the double-faced provision. The debates should be read carefully ( Constituent Assembly Debates , Vol. 7, pages 568-606).

The amendment read thus: “The state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breeds of cattle and prohibit the slaughter of cow and other useful cattle specially milch and draught cattle and their young stock.” The words “in particular” clearly link prohibition of cow slaughter to economic factors.

With a few verbal changes this amendment became Article 48 of the Constitution as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy listed in Part IV. It reads thus: “The state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

The injunction “endeavour” is used in several other Directive Principles (Articles 43, 44, 45, 47, 48A and 51); “strive” is used in Article 38(1) and (2); “shall take steps” in Articles 40, 43A and 50. “Shall take steps” is a stronger injunction than “endeavour”. Capping all of them is Article 37, which says: “The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws.” In contrast, the Fundamental Rights embodied in Part III are enforceable by the courts. Directive Principles are not.

Understandably, for the last of them (Article 51) enjoins: “The state shall endeavour to (a) promote international peace and security; (b) maintain just and honourable relations between nations; (c) foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another; and (d) encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.” From Nehru to this day, India has rejected international arbitration most of the time.


Bhargava’s exposition as the mover of the provision is important for two reasons: renunciation of “coercion” and deployment of the forked tongue. He began by paying obeisance to science and modernity and ended up with the religious plea.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that debates in the Constituent Assembly are relevant in the interpretation of the text. As the mover of the provision, therefore, Bhargava’s speech is very relevant. “While moving this amendment, I have no hesitation in stating that for people like me and those that do not agree with the point of view of Dr Ambedkar and others, this entails, in a way, a sort of sacrifice . Seth Govind Das had sent one such amendment to be included in the Fundamental Rights and other members also had sent similar amendments. To my mind it would have been much better if this could have been incorporated in the Fundamental Rights, but some of my Assembly friends differed and it is the desire of Dr Ambedkar that this matter, instead of being included in Fundamental Rights, should be incorporated in the Directive Principles. As a matter of fact, it is the agreed opinion of the Assembly that this problem should be solved in such a manner that the objective is gained without using any sort of coercion . I have purposely adopted this course as, to my mind, the amendment fulfils our object and is midway between the Directive Principles and the Fundamental Rights. I do not want that due to its inclusion in the Fundamental Rights, non-Hindus should complain that they have been forced to accept a certain thing against their will .”

The flourish about “midway” does not affect four basic facts that (a) he agreed to demote cow slaughter from Part III on Fundamental Rights, which are judicially enforceable, to Part IV on Directive Principles, which are not enforceable by courts; (b) he voiced “the agreed opinion of the Assembly”; (c) he offered the assurance which has been ignored in all the laws banning the slaughter of cows, namely: “It is the agreed opinion of the Constituent Assembly that this problem should be solved in such a manner that the objective is gained without any sort of coercion. ” This excludes enforceable legislation. Lastly, (d) the minorities should not be coerced, either. “I do not want that due to its inclusion in the Fundamental Rights, non-Hindus should complain that they had been forced to accept a certain thing against their will” (page 568).

Therefore, when he proceeded to add that cows “should be protected from slaughter”, he clearly meant by appropriate executive policies, not by coercive legislation. He cited Gandhi’s views. “He never wanted to put any compulsion on Muslims or non-Hindus” (page 570).

Significantly, Ram Sahai did not press an explicit amendment which was to figure in the part on Fundamental Rights. It said in so many words: “The state shall ban the slaughter of cows by law.” He cited Bhargava’s amendment.

Bhargava’s amendment was opposed by Z.H. Lari on the grounds that it was vague. “The Muslim minority must know where they stand.” Syed Muhammad Saadaullah, former Premier of Assam and member of the Drafting Committee, remarked: “Those who put it on the economic front, as the honourable Member who spoke before me said, do create a suspicion in the minds of many that the ingrained Hindu feeling against cow slaughter is being satisfied by the back door. If you put it on the economic front, I will place before you certain facts and figures which will show that the slaughter of cows is not as bad as it is sought to be made out from the economic point of view.” Bhargava’s amendment was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in the light of his clarification.

Granville Austin, the historian of India’s Constitution, remarked on these proceedings: “In the days of the British Raj, many Hindu revivalists had promised themselves that with Independence cow killing would stop. Those of this persuasion in the Assembly believed that the time for action was ripe and, as a result of agreement in the Congress Assembly Party meeting, the measure passed without opposition. No one would have quarrelled with the need to modernise agriculture, but many may have found the reference to cow-killing distasteful. There is good evidence that Nehru did. Generally speaking, however, Hindu feeling ran high on the subject, and one may surmise that those who opposed the anti-cow-killing cause bent with the wind, believing the issue not sufficiently important to warrant a firm stand against it. As various provisions of the Irish Constitution show that Ireland is a Roman Catholic nation, so Article 48 shows that Hindu sentiment predominated in the Constituent Assembly” ( The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation , OUP, page 82).

Supreme Court judgment

A decade later, on April 23, 1958, the Supreme Court pronounced judgment on a challenge to a law banning slaughter of cows ( Mohammed Hanif Quareshi & Ors vs State of Bihar & Ors (1959), Supreme Court Reports, 629, AIR 1958 S.C. 73). The court did not refer to the debates in the Constituent Assembly. Their relevance was accepted only later. Bhargava was allowed to appear as amicus curiae . His veneer peeled off. He reversed the stand he had taken in the Constituent Assembly and argued that “the Fundamental Rights must be regarded as subordinate” to laws made in pursuance of the Directive Principles (Article 48). The court flatly rejected this argument and said: “Article 13 (2) expressly says that the state shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by Chapter III of our Constitution which enshrines the Fundamental Rights. The Directive Principles cannot override this categorical restriction imposed on the legislative power of the state. A harmonious interpretation has to be placed upon the Constitution, and so interpreted it means that the state should certainly implement the Directive Principles but it must do so in such a way that its laws do not take away or abridge the Fundamental Rights, for otherwise the protecting provisions of Chapter III will be ‘a mere rope of sand’. As this court has said in the State of Madras vs Smt. Champakam Dorairajan , ‘The Directive Principles of State Policy have to conform to and run as subsidiary to the Chapter on Fundamental Rights.’”

Speaking for the court, Chief Justice S.R. Das observed: “There can be no gainsaying the fact that the Hindus in general hold the cow in great reverence and the idea of the slaughter of cows for food is repugnant to their notions and this sentiment has in the past even led to communal riots. It is also a fact that after the recent partition of the country this agitation against the slaughter of cows has been further intensified. While we agree that the constitutional question before us cannot be decided on grounds of mere sentiment, however passionate it may be, we, nevertheless, think that it has to be taken into consideration, though only as one of many elements, in arriving at a judicial verdict as to the reasonableness of the restrictions.”

The Constitution itself does not make sentiment such a ground. It, however, betrays an outlook which has persisted in some judges. As we shall see, Justice J.C. Shah totally disagreed. Chief Justice Das also noted: “There is also no getting away from the fact that beef or buffalo meat is an item of food for a large section of the people in India and in particular of the State of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Table II at page 24 of the Report on the Marketing of Cattle in India shows that in the year 1948 the annual demand for cattle and buffaloes for purposes of food was: 18,93,000 heads of cattle and 6,09,000 buffaloes. These figures indicate that beef and buffalo flesh are used for food by a large section of the people in India. It is well known that poorer sections of Muslims, Christians and members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes consume beef and buffalo flesh. There is also a limited demand for beef by the foreign population.

“Buffaloes yield comparatively coarse and tough meat of inferior quality and consequently the demand for beef is greater than that for buffalo flesh. Further the price of the buffalo flesh is 20 to 40 per cent less than that of beef. The prices of beef and buffalo meat are much cheaper than that of mutton or goat’s meat and consequently beef and buffalo flesh come within the reach of the poorer people perhaps for a day or two in the week.… The Acts, if enforced, will prevent them from having even this little bit of nourishment and amenity. It is true that after the partition of the country the Muslim population has decreased and further that some Muslims may not habitually take beef or buffalo flesh, but even so a large section of the poorer people belonging to the Muslim, Christian and Scheduled Caste communities do consume beef and buffalo flesh. And this is not merely a matter of amenity or luxury, but is at any rate partially a matter of necessity.

“Table VII set out at page 32 of the Memorandum on Human Nutrition vis-a-vis Animal Nutrition in India recommends one ounce of meat daily whereas the available quantity is much less and the attainable quantity under the new plan may be 1/3 ounce or a little more. Poorer people, therefore, who can hardly afford fruit or milk or ghee are likely to suffer from malnutrition if they are deprived of even one ounce of beef or buffalo flesh which may sometimes be within their reach. This aspect of the matter must also be taken into account in assessing the reasonableness of the provisions of the impugned Acts.”

Striking a balance

At the end he struck a balance. “To summarise: The country is in short supply of milch cattle, breeding bulls and working bullocks. If the nation is to maintain itself in health and nourishment and get adequate food, our cattle must be improved. In order to achieve this objective our cattle population fit for breeding and work must be properly fed and whatever cattle food is now at our disposal and whatever more we can produce must be made available to the useful cattle which are in presenti or will in futuro be capable of yielding milk or doing work. The maintenance of useless cattle involves a wasteful drain on the nation’s cattle feed. To maintain them is to deprive the useful cattle of the much needed nourishment. The presence of so many useless animals tends to deteriorate the breed. Total ban on the slaughter of cattle, useful or otherwise, is calculated to bring about a serious dislocation, though not a complete stoppage, of the business of a considerable section of the people who are by occupation butchers (kasais), hide merchants and so on. Such a ban will also deprive a large section of the people of what may be their staple food. At any rate, they will have to forego the little protein food which may be within their means to take once or twice in the week. Preservation of useless cattle by establishment of gosadans is not for reasons already indicated a practical proposition.…

“So approaching and analysing the problem, we have reached the conclusion (i) that a total ban on the slaughter of cows of all ages and calves of cows and calves of she-buffaloes, male and female, is quite reasonable and valid and is in consonance with the Directive Principles laid down in Article 48; (ii) that a total ban on the slaughter of she-buffaloes or breeding bulls or working bullocks (cattle as well as buffaloes) as long as they are useful as milch or draught cattle is also reasonable and valid; and (iii) that a total ban on the slaughter of she-buffaloes, bulls and bullocks (cattle or buffalo) after they cease to be capable of yielding milk or of breeding or working as draught animals cannot be supported as reasonable in the interest of the general public.”

Strange sequel

Communal bigots were not deterred. H.M. Seervai described with characteristic care their attempts to circumvent the ruling. “This decision had a strange sequel. The decision was followed by legislative amendments designed to prevent the slaughter of cattle after they ceased to be capable of yielding milk or of breeding or of working as draught animals. In Abdul Hakim Quraishi vs State of Bihar (1961), 2 SCR 610, AIR 1961 S.C. 448, these amendments were again challenged as violating Article 19(1)(g). In addition to urging some of the grounds which had been held to justify the slaughter of old and unfit cattle, the petitioners contended that as a result of the raising of the age limit there would be no bullocks or buffaloes or she-buffaloes available for slaughter as few of the animals survived in India up to the age of 15 years and that millions of members of the minority community would be deprived of cattle-beef which was a staple item of their diet. Affidavits on behalf of the States tried to justify the raising of the limit from 15 to 20 years or 25 years.”

On careful consideration of the evidence, the Supreme Court held that: “… the almost unanimous opinion of experts is that after the age of 15, bulls, bullocks and buffaloes are no longer useful for breeding, draught and other purposes and whatever little use they may have then is greatly offset by the economic disadvantages of feeding and maintaining unserviceable cattle—disadvantages to which we had referred in much greater detail in Mohd. Hanif Quareshi’s case (1959) SCR 629 .”

‘Attempt to circumvent judgment’

The notification impugned in another case, Mohammed Faruk vs MP (1970 1 SCR 156, AIR 1970, 93), was described by the Supreme Court as “apparently another attempt, though on a restricted scale, to circumvent the judgment of this court in Mohammed Hanif Quareshi’s case …. The effect of the impugned notification was to prohibit the slaughter of bulls and bullocks within the Municipality of Jabalpur, and the notification imposed a direct restriction upon the petitioners’ rights under Article 19(1)(g).”

In allowing the petition, Justice Shah speaking for a bench of five judges, said: “ The sentiments of a section of the people may be hurt by permitting slaughter of bulls and bullocks in premises maintained by a local authority. But a prohibition imposed on the exercise of a fundamental right to carry on an occupation, trade or business will not be regarded as reasonable, if it is imposed not in the interest of the general public, but merely to respect the susceptibilities and sentiments of a section of the people whose way of life, belief or thought is not the same as that of the claimant ” (pages 96-97).

Over three decades later, the Supreme Court discarded the balance and wiped out settled jurisprudence. On October 26, 2005, a nine-member bench, constituted specially to overrule the judgment by a five-member Constitution Bench in Hanif Quareshi’s case, upheld, by 8-1, a total ban on slaughter of cow ( State of Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kaseab Jamat (2005) 8 SCC 534).

Speaking for the majority, Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti said: “Post Kesavananda Bharati [the Fundamental Rights case of 1973] so far as the determination of the position of Directive Principles, vis-a-vis Fundamental Rights are concerned, it has been an era of positivism and creativity . Article 37 of the Constitution while declaring the Directive Principles to be unenforceable by any court, goes on to say ‘that they are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country’. The several clauses of Article 37 themselves need to be harmoniously construed assigning equal weightage to all of them. The end part of Article 37—‘it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws’ is not a pariah but a constitutional mandate. The series of decisions which we have referred to hereinabove and the series of decisions which formulate the three stages of development of the relationship between Directive Principles and Fundamental Rights undoubtedly hold that, while interpreting the interplay of rights and restrictions, Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles) have to be read together. The restriction which can be placed on the rights listed in Article 19(1) are not subject to Articles 19(2) to 19(6); the provisions contained in the chapter on Directive Principles of State Policy can also be pressed into service and relied on for the purpose of adjudging the reasonability of restrictions placed on the Fundamental Rights .” This turns Article 37 on its head. The very text of the Constitution was perverted. The constitutionally prescribed restrictions on Fundamental Rights in Article 19(2) to (6) were of no moment. The Directive Principle Article 48 alone governed.

Directive Principles are now to be used as an additional ground for restricting the Fundamental Rights in this judicially declared “era of positivism and creativity” which serves to help the court to amass power.

“Given the progressive orientation of the Supreme Court, its creative rule under Article 141 and the creative elements implicit in the very process in determining ratio decidendi , it is not surprising that the judicial process has not been crippled in the discharge of its duty to keep the law abreast of the times, by the traditionalist theory of stare decisis (binding force of precedent). Times and conditions change with the changing society, and, ‘every age should be mistress of its own law’ and the era should not be hampered by outdated law.”

A flurry of dicta on “progressive” law unshackled by precedent followed. Dissenting, Justice A.K. Mathur said: “I do not think that it will be proper to reverse the view which has been held good for a long spell of time from 1958 to 1996. There is no material change in ground realities warranting reversal of earlier decisions.” The 1958 case was followed by the Supreme Court in 1961 and 1970.

The 1996 ruling was fairly construed by a Division Bench of the court on March 29, 2006, in Akhil Bharat Gosena Sangh (3) vs State of A.P. & Ors (2006) 4 SCC 162. The court noted: “The Constitution Bench of this Court in that case held such a legislation to be constitutional in the light of the finding that the legislation was in furtherance of the directive in Article 48 of the Constitution and any enactment which furthers the cause in the Directive Principles of State Policy cannot be held to be unconstitutional. It was, however, not held that permitting slaughter of bovine cattle by itself is unconstitutional ” (page 204).

Right to personal liberty

It is slaughter of cows that is banned, not consumption of beef. This brings us to the right to privacy and its corollary: the right to eat just what one chooses to eat. In two rulings the Supreme Court has held the right to eat to be a part of the fundamental right to “personal liberty” (Article 21). In Re Ramlila Maidan Incident (2012) 5 SCC 1 at page 121, Justice Dr B.C. Chauhan held that the “right of [ sic ] privacy and the right to sleep have always been treated to be a fundamental right like a right to breathe, to eat , to drink, to blink, etc.”.

In Hinsa Virodhik Sangh vs Mirzapur Moti Kuresh Jamat (2005) 5 SCC 33, the Supreme Court said: “A large number of people are non-vegetarian and they cannot be compelled to become vegetarian for a long period. What one eats is one’s personal affair and it is a part of his right to privacy which is included in Article 21 of our Constitution as held by several decisions of this court” (paragraph 27, page 47).

Relying on the Supreme Court’s rulings, the Bombay High Court held: “Article 21 includes the right to lead a meaningful life. It protects the citizen from unnecessary state intrusion into his home. For leading a meaningful life, a citizen will have to eat food and preferably food of his choice. If the state tells him not to eat a particular kind of food though the same is not injurious to health, it will prevent the citizen from leading a meaningful life. If the state starts making intrusion into the personal life of an individual by preventing him from eating food of his choice, such act may well affect his personal liberty. Hence, even assuming that there may not be any right of privacy, such interference will be violation of personal liberty guaranteed by the state.”

Section 5A(1) of the Amendment Act of Maharashtra bans transport of cows outside the State for slaughter. Subsection (2) also bans their export outside for slaughter. The net result is

(1) Slaughter of cows, bulls, etc. within Maharashtra is banned.

(2) Banned also is possession of their flesh provided that the person knew that it had been slaughtered within the State.

(3) But possession of the flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra is permitted.

(4) The provisions of the Act empowering a Sub-Inspector of Police to seize any cow, bull or bullock, along with the vehicle in which it is found, is unconstitutional insofar as it concerns violation of Section 5D, that is, cow slaughtered outside the State.

(5) The provision which throws the onus of proof on the accused is declared unconstitutional.

The judgment concerns a law enacted by the Maharashtra Assembly. But its irrefutable logic will apply to any State law, be it in Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Jaipur, Ahmedabad or Hyderabad. Champions of bans on cow slaughter have now caught a tartar. The Bombay High Court’s judgment can be used to show up the utter hypocrisy of Thakurdas Bhargava and his successors in this century—loudmouths and forked tongues.

Since the court also held also Section 5D unconstitutional because it bans possession of “flesh of any cow, bull, or bullock slaughtered outside the State” and upholds consumption of their flesh within Maharashtra, it necessarily follows that the transportation of a cow slaughtered outside Maharashtra for consumption of its meat within it is perfectly legal. Section 5A (1) and (2) only forbid their transport outside Maharashtra for slaughter. A State in the Union can only ban cow slaughter within its territory, not outside it. The meat of cows, bulls or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra in any other State or, for that matter, in a foreign country, can lawfully be imported into Maharashtra for consumption by persons residing in the State.

It is not only five-star hotels that can import beef from other countries to serve in their restaurants—very many do that anyway—but humbler restaurants in Maharashtra can also import beef from other States by road, rail or air in the same manner that suppliers of fish in Mumbai import it from the east coast in a lean season. Cold storage units can store them freely. A foolish and arbitrary curb will be exposed to ridicule. Kebabs taste far better if made of beef; steaks will no longer be forbidden; and the delectable beef curry which is eaten at dawn, nihari , can be freely served. Lovers of good food rejoice. You have nothing to lose except regressive curbs on your rights.

Rejoice, but spare a thought for the state of our Republic in which such laws can be made. The man who initiated the moves, Rajendra Prasad, became the first President of our Republic to obstruct the policies of a secular Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Article 48 was conceived in deceit and executed through fraud. Bhargava’s two assurances—“without using any sort of coercion” and he did not want that “non-Hindus should complain that they have been forced to accept a certain thing against their will”—were flouted by the man himself in his pleas to the Supreme Court. And as for the record of the Supreme Court of India on cow slaughter bans, the less said the better.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment