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Banning Cow Slaughter by Stealth

The contentious issue of cow slaughter has been revived with the notification of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017(the Rules) by the Union Government. When cow slaughter was first raised in the Constituent Assembly of India, there was a move to place it under Fundamental Rights. However, by a compromise, it was placed within Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), with the caveat that it will not be implemented with coercion by the state. The Supreme Court, which initially placed DPSP (now Article 48) on a lower pedestal than the Fundamental Rights has since modified its position to treat them as equal. However, the emphasis even in Article 48 is on modern animal husbandry more than cow slaughter, and certainly there is no scope for reading into it a total, blanket ban on cow slaughter. Prima facie, then, the Rules, pose a threat to the freedom of profession of all those who are dependent on slaughter of cattle. By notifying these Rules, the Centre has encroached the jurisdiction of the State Legislatures and upended the federal spirit of the country, writes Manuraj Shunmugasundaram, Advocate, Madras High Court and National-Media spokesperson, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) . The present legal position on cow slaughter, he says, may be re-examined in due course when Writ Petitions challenging the Rules are finally heard before the Supreme Court. The author can be contacted at [email protected]

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