Why A Muslim Man In Gujarat Faces Life In Prison For The Crime Of Transporting Cattle ( Article14)

Unless you can prove otherwise to a government officer, if you transport cattle in Gujarat without an official certificate you are deemed to be taking them to slaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life. This is how a Muslim man, who police alleged–with no evidence–was driving a van with cattle, faces life in prison, sentenced by a judge who eulogised the cow as he did so.

Representative Image/PIXABAY

New Delhi: There was little or no news on or around 4 November 2022 of a sessions court in Tapi District, Gujarat, having convicted and sentenced one Mohammed Aameen Anjum for offences under the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act of 1954.

This was the statute that had been amended in 2017 to permit the imposition of life imprisonment in cow slaughter cases and a sentence of up to 10 years for illegal transportation of cows.

It was at the end of January, when an unofficial translated copy of this judgement in English came to be circulated, that multiple news outlets carried the story.

What captured public attention was not so much the reasoning behind a long judgement that had sentenced a man to imprisonment for life, but on the remarkable observations that formed a sort of prologue to the order.

I need not repeat them here, as the headlines capture it all. “Religion is born out of Cow; Problems on Earth will be Solved the day Cow Slaughter is stopped: Gujarat Court” reported LiveLaw, and the story on NDTV ran with the headline, “Cow Dung Protects Houses from Atomic Radiation”.

These remarks attributed from the translated copy made the judgement an object of collective mirth, diverting our focus from the heart of the matter: that a man had been sentenced to life in prison for the crime of slaughtering an animal not by means of any evidence of such slaughter but leaps of logic scaffolded on presumptions in laws.

Building on analytical pieces like the one published by NewsClick, this piece takes a closer look at the judgement in Anjum’s case and argues that there may be some flaws in its reasoning. The bigger problem, though, is not the judgement but the potential that laws such as the 1954 statute can have to inflict injustice upon persons.

Mohammed Aameen Anjum’s Prosecution

The incident in question allegedly took place on the night of 18 July 2020, when a truck was halted by police for routine checking and it was found to be carrying 16 cows and bullocks.

The animals were tied in a narrow space without water or forage, or any medicine; subsequent inspections revealed that two of the animals were dead inside the truck. During this halt the driver, Anjum, allegedly escaped from the spot upon this discovery and fled into the night. He was arrested around 10 days later.

Anjum was prosecuted for various offences under state and central laws, the most serious of these being the violations of sections 5 and 6A of the 1954 Act, punished under section 8.

Since 2011, section 5 had made cow slaughter illegal, prohibiting any certificates permitting such slaughter from being issued. Where this was punished up to seven years in 2011, the 2017 amendment hiked the punishment clause in section 8(2) to permit a maximum of life imprisonment with a minimum of 10 years in prison for anyone found guilty of slaughtering a cow, or causing it to be slaughtered.

The 2011 amendment to the 1954 Act had inserted section 6A, which prohibited transporting cows for the purposes of slaughter, or with the knowledge that it was likely for the cow to be slaughtered.

Critical here was a presumption—a person found transporting a cow without a certificate from the government officer would be deemed as carrying it for slaughter “unless the contrary is proved thereto to the satisfaction of the concerned authority of officer”.

Since 2017, punishment for this illegal transportation under section 8(4) is a minimum of seven years in prison, with a possible maximum of 10 years.

This story was originally published in article-14.com . Read the full story here

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