As alternative bioenergy sources are getting popular, cattle which have outgrown the breeding age can still be used because they give dung, the government has argued. | Image Credits: Shruti Mathur/The Quint

In response to a notice issued by Karnataka High Court, based on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition challenging the state’s anti-cow slaughter law, the BS Yediyurappa government has now filed a comprehensive statement detailing the need and legal validity of the law, particularly with reference to dung.

As alternative bioenergy sources are getting popular, cattle which have outgrown the breeding age can still be used because they give dung, the government has argued, even as the state’s legal counsel has also sited previous Supreme Court rulings that have upheld cattle slaughter bans.

The public interest litigation was filed by Mohammed Arif Jameel, a social worker. He had questioned the constitutional validity of the now repealed Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Ordinance 2020 and the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act 2020, which mandates prevention of cattle slaughter.

What Does The Law Say?

According to the Ordinance, that came into effect on 18 January, anyone involved in slaughtering of cows, smuggling or selling beef in the state will be punished with provisions of imprisonment up to seven years in jail and (or) a fine of up to 10 lakh. Slaughter of buffaloes above the age of 13 is, however, allowed.

The petitioner in his petition had contended that the law violates the fundamental rights of citizens and is unconstitutional. Further, it said that Article 19 (1) (g) of the constitution of India guarantees a citizen to carry out any trade and business, subject to the reasonable restriction as mentioned in clause 6 of that article, reported Live Law.

The petition also stated the ordinance violated the right to choose food and that in Karnataka, many people consume beef on a regular basis.

Dung Good for Bioenergy, Argues Government

Its statement further read that even the waste of these animals is of use and that they continue to contribute to society even after they grow old.

With the growing adoption of non-conventional energy sources like biogas plants, dung is of use, the government argued. So, even older cattle which do not breed continue to give dung and cannot be considered economically unproductive, the government’s reply read.

“It is estimated that a bull or bullock an on average gives 15-20 kg of dung per day and 10-12 litres of urine per day. And 1 kg of dung produces 40 litres of biogas. Therefore, they never cease to be useful. And their urine can be utilised in compost pits for producing other by-products.”
Government’s Reply to the High Court

Further, the government harped on the livestock census numbers which note a reduction in cattle population. Cattle population has reduced from 95,164,84 in 2012 census (19th livestock census) to 84,69,004 in 2019 (20th livestock census) , the government’s reply read.

Govt Says Farmers Dependent on Cattle

In its detailed response, submitted to the court, the state has said that it relied on its “legal competence under Entry 15 of the State List, that stipulates that the state can legislate on “preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice” to form the law.

It has also listed reasons that led to the enactment of the law.

One of the major reasons that necessitates this law, the government said was because “the economy of Karnataka is still predominantly dependent on agricultural and cow progeny admittedly forms its backbone”.

The government further states that as per the Karnataka Economic Survey, 2020-21 agriculture contributes Rs 1,280,45 crores and specifically, cattle contribute Rs 52,688 crores to the Gross State Domestic Product. “Given that approximately 80 per cent of the farmers in Karnataka have less than two hectares of landholding, reliance on cattle rather than tractors for farming activities is significant,” the state has explained.

The State said it has also submitted detailed statistics and figures demonstrating the preservation and protection of agricultural animals like bulls and bullocks.

It said that bulls and bullocks are not only useful for dairy farming but also for draught agricultural purposes and breeding. “In addition, working bullocks are indispensable as they supply an impressive amount of power in comparison to any other animal.”

State Quotes Supporting Judgements

The State also told the court that the matter in challenge is covered by the 2005 judgment, wherein the constitution bench of seven judges of the Supreme Court of India during State of Gujarat vs. Mirzapur Moti Khureshi Kasab Jamat rejected the challenge to the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act, 1954.

Besides, the matter, the government said is also covered by a more recent challenge brought before the High Court of Bombay in 2016, in the case of Shaikh Zahid Mukthtar vs. State of Maharashtra, which challenged the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 and its subsequent amendments.

Both these decisions, the government statement said have extensively considered and rejected various grounds raised by the petitioners in the present case and upheld the constitutionality of the respective Acts in question.

Countering the allegation that the law violates the right of a citizen to practice any profession, the Karnataka government’s statement read, “Overruling an earlier five-judge constitutional bench decision from 1958, the Supreme Court in a 6-1 majority upheld the Gujarat Act noting that the restrictions placed on the Article 19(1) right to the profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business were not a total prohibition, were reasonable, and in furtherance of the Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties enshrined in the Constitution of India.”

The Supreme court has also considered as ‘negative’, claims which were made regarding the right to consume protein-rich meat originating from cow progeny, the government argued.

The court, it said also held that bulls and bullocks do not become useless merely by crossing a particular age. In fact, there is an increasing adoption of non-conventional energy sources like biogas plants which justify the need for bulls and bullocks to live their full lives in spite of having ceased to be useful for the purpose of breeding and draught, the government aruged.

The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed in the state assembly on 9 December but the government did not table the same in the Legislative Council, fearing it would not get a majority as the Opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) were against it. The government then chose to pass an Ordinance to bring in the law.

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