Ban cow slaughter, declare cow protected national animal, Allahabad High Court to Union government

The high court made overwrought observations on the cow and Hinduism in its order dismissing an application for quashing the chargesheet against a person under the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act. The order, however, does not offer any reasoning on merits.

THE Allahabad High Court is of the view that anyone who kills cows or allows others to kill them is deemed to rot in hell for as many years as there are hairs upon their body, adding that the Union government may take an appropriate decision to ban cow slaughter in the country and to declare the cow as a “protected national animal”.

These views were expressed by Justice Shamim Ahmed last month while dismissing an application filed by one Mohd. Abdul Khaliq that sought that the chargesheet filed against him under Sections 3/5/8 of the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 by the Dewa police station in Barabanki district be quashed.

The allegations against Khaliq were that police personnel caught a person in Sarsaudi village with a sack containing beef of cow progeny. On interrogation, this person said that he, along with the applicant, are involved in cow slaughter and he was going to Lucknow to sell the beef.

Justice Ahmed offered no reasoning on merits while refusing to quash the chargesheet; he merely stated that the chargesheet discloses prima facie the commission of an offence. However, he devoted at least eight paragraphs to the cow and Hinduism.

Justice Ahmed expressed the view that, “We are living in a secular country and must have respect for all religions and in Hinduism, the belief and faith is that cows are representative of divine and natural beneficence and should therefore be protected and venerated.

The cow has also been associated with various deities, notably Lord Shiva (whose steed is Nandi, a bull) Lord Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wise-granting cow), Lord Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them). The cow is the most sacred of all the animals of Hinduism. It is known as Kamadhenu, or the divine cow, and the giver of all desires. According to legend, she emerged from the ocean of milk at the time of Samudramanthan or the great churning of the ocean by the gods and demons. She was presented to the seven sages, and in the course of time came into the custody of sage Vasishta. Her legs symbolise four Vedas; her source of milk is four Purushartha (or objectives, i.e. dharma or righteousness, artha or material wealth, kama or desire and moksha or salvation); her horns symbolise the gods, her face the sun and moon, and her shoulders agni or the god of fire. She has also been described in other forms: Nanda, Sunanda, Surabhi, Susheela and Sumana“, he wrote in the judgment.

Elaborating further, he noted, “Legends also state that Brahma gave life to priests and cows at the same time so that the priests could recite religious scriptures while cows could afford ghee(clarified butter) as offering in rituals.”. He, however, did not name the legends he was referring to. He, however, added “Anyone who kills cows or allows others to kill them is deemed to rot in hell as many years as there are hairs upon his body. Likewise, the bull is depicted as a vehicle of Lord Shiva: a symbol of respect for the male cattle. In the Mahabharata, Bhishma (grandfather of the leaders of warring factions) observes that the cow acts as a surrogate mother by providing milk to human beings for a lifetime, so she is truly the mother of the world. The Puranas state that nothing is more religious than the gift of cows. Lord Rama was given a gift of many cows.

In the late 19th and 20th centuries, in India, Justice Ahmed further wrote, a movement to protect cows arose that strove to unify citizens by demanding that the Government of India ban cow slaughter with immediate effect in the country.

Also read: The Indian judiciary and its not so holier-than-cow verdicts

In September 2021, Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav of the Allahabad High Court had observed that the cow should be declared the national animal as it is a part and parcel of Indian culture, adding that the welfare of the country depends upon the welfare of the cow. He had suggested that the government bring in a law bringing cow protection under fundamental rights as mentioned in Part III of the Constitution.

Fundamental rights are not only the prerogative of beefeaters but also of those who worship the cow and are economically dependent on them, Justice Yadav had said. He had expressed these views while rejecting the bail application of a person charged for offences under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act in Uttar Pradesh.

In contrast, Justice Siddharth of the same high court had in October 2020 observed that the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act was being misused against innocent persons.

“Whenever any meat is recovered, it is normally shown as cow meat (beef) without getting it examined or analysed by a forensic laboratory. In most cases, the meat is not sent for analysis. Accused persons continue in jail for an offence that may not have been committed at all and which is triable by Magistrate Ist Class, having maximum sentence upto seven years,” Justice Siddharth had noted.

Click here to read the order.

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