“Cow is a sacred national wealth, no fundamental right to slaughter cows for Bakrid, Andhra HC .
The recent judgment by Rajasthan High Court recommending declaration of cow as a national animal had grabbed many an eyeball.
However, an order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana much earlier in the case tiltles as “Ramavath Hanuma Vs State of Telangana “, on March 1 to be precise, had escaped the attention of the press and public.
The order passed by Justice B Siva Sankara Rao has now come to light and it waxes eloquent about cows and its significance to the country as a “sacred national wealth” before holding that slaughter of cows for bakrid is not an essential religious practice under Islam.
The matter, which is a criminal revision case has an interesting genesis. The petitioner was grazing 63 cows and 2 bulls when the police arrived at the scene and seized the cattle on the ground that the owners had procured them to be offered for slaughter for the Muslim festival of Bakrid. The cows were handed over to a Gaushala while case was registered against the petitioner under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Prohibition of Cows Slaughter and Animal Preservation Act II of 1977.
The Judicial First Class Magistrate-cum-Special Mobile Magistrate, Nalgonda dismissed the application for interim custody of the cattle leading to the petition in High Court.
It was the contention of the petitioner that the cows were grazing in open place and that there is no cruelty to attract provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Prohibition of Cows Slaughter and Animal Preservation Act. He contended that the seizure and handing over of animals to Gaushala is illegal and it is not in accordance with the procedure established by law and the cows cannot be kept in illegal custody in any Gaushala and should be returned to the petitioner. It was also his contention that sacrifices to God in the religious functions is not an offence.
The State government on the other hand contended that there is prima facie case under the 1977 Act and on obtaining information that cows are being subjected to slaughter for sacrifice on the occasion of Muslim festival, the police is entitled to seize such cattle and there is no wrong in entrusting their custody to the Gaushala for safe custody.
The Court after considering the contentions of the parties, proceeds to discuss about cows and the significance attached to it in India.
“In this Country-the Bharat, for those in belief who represent a majority of population, cow is a substitute to mother, who is a substitute to God. The cow in particular acquires a special sanctity and was called “Aghnya” (not to be slain). Thus, cow is a sacred national wealth and no one merely owned can claim, but for to rear, either to kill or to sell for slaughter.”
The Court then extensively relies on Veda, Upanishads and other Religious scriptures to assert the importance of cows.
“Cows are the source of that immortality which Vedic sacrifices prescribe. They have within them the nature of both the sun and the moon. Cows verily constitute and determine the eternal destiny of creation. Cows are the life breath of all living creatures therefore one who makes a gift of a cow is said to be making a gift of life breath to all living creatures. Cows are also constituted as the great refuge of all living creatures thus one who makes a gift of a cow is said to be making a gift of that which is the great refuge of all living creatures.”
The Court also cites verses from Bible to buttress its view against killing of animals. It also refers to the laws passed by Muslims rulers prohibiting cow slaughter.
“It is in fact part of the known history of India that the Moghul Emperor Babar saw the wisdom of prohibiting the slaughter of cows as and by way of religious sacrifice and directed his son Humayun to follow this example. Similarly Emperors Akbar, Jehangir, and Ahmad Shah, it is said, prohibited cow slaughter.”
The Court then cites a plethora of decisions by the Supreme Court to conclude that there is no fundamental right of Muslims to insist on slaughter of healthy cows on the occasion of Bakrid.
“The contention that not only an essential religious practice under Article 25(1) of Constitution, but even optional religious practice could be permitted, was discarded. The Apex Court held that slaughtering of healthy cows on Bakrid is not essential or required for religious purpose of Muslims or in other words it is not a part of religious requirement for a Muslim that a cow must be necessarily sacrificed for earning religious merit on Bakrid.”
The Court, therefore, dismissed the case and also urged for amendments to law with stringent penal consequences and better enforcement of Prevention of Cruelty against Animals by amending the Act.