Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday, 12 July, tabled the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, seeking to provide for the preservation of cattle by regulating their slaughter, consumption, and illegal transportation.
Tabled on the first day of the Assembly’s Budget session, the new bill, which was approved by the state Cabinet last week, also claims to counter cattle smuggling by seeking to ban the transport of cattle within as well as to and from Assam.
The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which allowed the slaughter of cattle above the age of 14 years after approval from local veterinary officers, will now be replaced.
What Are the Features of the New Bill?
Prohibiting slaughter of cattle, Section 4 of the Bill states, “no person shall slaughter or cause to be slaughtered, or offer or cause to be offered for the slaughter of any cattle".
However, Section 5, adds that any cattle can only be slaughtered if a certificate in writing is issued by the registered veterniary officer, who shall be of the opinion that the cattle, not being a cow, is over 14 years of age and has “become permanently incapacitated”.
Prohibiting inter-state transport of cattle to and from, as well as through Assam without valid documents, Section 7 of the Bill adds, “no person shall transport or offer for transport or cause to be transported any cattle, without valid permit, from:
a. any place of other state through Assam to any place outside the state of Assam.
b. Any place within the state of Assam to any place outside the state of Assam where slaughter of cattle is not regulated by law."
Moreover, Assam’s proposed law does not distinguish between different cattle types and is applicable to all cattle, including “bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves, male and female buffaloes, and buffalo calves.”
Exceptions for taking permission for transport have been granted, such as, no permission shall be required for carrying cattle to grazing field or for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes within the particular district.
Further, the Bill states if a person violates any rules for transportation and transports cattle without a valid permit, his vehicle or any conveyance used in transporting such cattle, along with cattle, will be seized by the authorities.
For Areas Predominantly Inhabited by Hindus
The most unique feature of the bill, lies in Section 8, which states that no person shall directly or indirectly sell or offer beef or beef products except from places permitted to do so. However, no permission will be given to such places:
“..in such area or areas which are predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef eating communities, or within a radius of 5 km of any temple, satra, or other religious institutions belonging to Hindu religion.”
Anybody found guilty can be jailed for a term of minimum three years, which may extend up to eight years, and be fined at least Rs 3 lakh, which may be increased to Rs 5 lakh, or both. For repeat offenders, the punishment will be doubled.
The proposed legislation, however, won’t apply to “religious occasions” when “slaughter of cattle, not being a cow or heifer or calf” is allowed.
Reacting to the Bill, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia of Congress was quoted as saying, “The 5 km rule about beef. A stone can be laid and a ‘temple’ can be ‘built’ anywhere by anyone — so it becomes very ambiguous. This may lead to a lot of communal tension,” The Indian Express reported.
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) legislator Aminul Islam was quoted as saying, “This is not a Bill to protect cows, or even respect cows. This has been brought to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims and polarise communities further. We oppose it and will try and bring in amendment resolutions."
(With inputs from The Indian Express)