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Beef Ban: Who are we fooling?

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Ever since the Narendra Modi-led BJP rose to power in 2014, there appears a desperate attempt to prove that the country is increasingly going out of control. A malicious propaganda is being run to create Pre-Modi and Post-Modi type of image in people’s mind. An image of a hunky-dory Pre-Modi India and a chaotic and violent Post-Modi India. All governmental actions are showcased as an innovative ‘atrocity’ towards the Minority. Can’t face facts? Better give it a communal flavor, and convert rhetorics.

One such example is the ‘Beef Ban’ controversy which has caught the eye of a storm. Let’s put some facts into perceptive before we move ahead. Barring just 7, 29 of 36 States and UTs have banned cow-slaughter in one or the other way. Most of them weren’t BJP ruled when the anti-cow-slaughter laws were passed and nor are they when the laws still operate. Those political parties shedding crocodile tears over the issue have all continued with such bans in the states they rule. Therefore, cow-slaughter ban isn’t a BJP invention.

Focal to the controversy is the recently approved legislation by the President of India, confirming to the 19-year-old amendment of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976. The act of 1976 already banned slaughter of cow. The amendment which was brought in 1995 further banned the slaughter of bulls as well as bullocks, previously subjected to a fit-for-slaughter certificate. The ban, however, does not apply to the slaughtering of water buffaloes.

Validity of any law is only through a constitutional verification. Constitutionally valid law is not and should not be the subject matter of media’s scrutiny.

To understand the constitutionality of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, one has to look into Article 48 of the Constitution which states as follows:

“Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry.The State shall endeavor to organize 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.”

Therefore, it is clear that the constitution itself mandates the states to ban slaughter of cows, calves, and other milch and draught cattle. Any law which follows such constitutional mandate is valid.

Supplementing Article 48 are other Articles 48-A and 51-A which state as under:

“48-A. Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life.—The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.”

51-A. Fundamental duties. — It shall be the duty of every citizen of India —

*** *** ***

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;”.

The new Maharashtra law faces a constitutional challenge in form of infringement of fundamental rights of Minority concerning Article 19(g) [Right to practice any profession, occupation, trade or business] & Article 25 [Right to profession, practice and propagation of religion].

Hon. Supreme Court and different High Courts have unanimously upheld the constitutional validity of various legislations banning cow, bull or bullock slaughter qua article 25. Courts have held that such bans are not violative of any community’s right to profess religion. In the case of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi v/s State of Bihar, the 5-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court adjudged that a ban on cow slaughter does not violate the Muslim community’s right to religion as there is no evidence to show that the Muslim Community slaughters cow for religious purposes. This ratio has been reiterated in State of W.B. v/s Ashitosh Lahiri and State of Gujarat v/s Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat.

A law imposing total ban on cow, bull and bullock slaughter (similar to the Maharashtra Law) was challenged under Article 19(g) before a 7-judges constitutional bench in State of Gujarat v/s MirzapurMoti Kureshi Kasab Jamat contending that the said law infringed the right of butchers to practice their profession. This 2005 judgment upholding the constitutional validity of such law hold water till date.

The apex court held that since Gujarat’s economy is predominantly agricultural (so is Maharashtra’s) there was a need to protect animals like bulls and bullocks too. The court further explained the various uses of the animals proclaiming that “Cow and her progeny are the backbone of Indian Agriculture and its economic system.” The court specifically answered the contentions regarding Article 19(g) stating that because there is some inconvenience or dislocation to the butchers, the enacted law does not cease to be in public interest.

Therefore, illogical arguments propagated by media so passionately are unconstitutional because the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995 is unquestionably valid according to the Constitution of India.

Across India, Muslims from all corners of life including politicians, social activists, and artists are seeking a ban on cow slaughter. Organizations like the Muslim Reformative Society (MRS) and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) have also vocally bid for a pan-India cow slaughter ban. Well-known personalities like Mohammed Abdul Raheem Qureshi, assistant secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Board and president of the Majlis-e-Tameer-e-Millat, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, Maulana Aneesur Rehman Azmi, Maulana Mufti Nassem Ahmed Ashrafi, and Maulana Mufti Mahboob Shareef Nizami have also joined the chorus.

It’s high time that we all introspect about the imaginary communal divide propagated by some in the media for their TRPs and reject it in toto in the interest of national integrity and harmony. The choice is ours to make, it always has been.

written by Ansh Bharadwaj, BBA LLB 3rd Year, Jindal Global Law School, OP Jindal Global University

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