A new Bill to protect cattle has been put up on Monday by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa in the
Assam Legislative Assembly. CM Sarma puts a bar on sale and purchase of beef or beef
products “within a radius of 5 km” of any temple or sattra or Vaishnavite monasteries or in
areas “predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non beef eating communities”.
The Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, aims to regulate “slaughter, consumption, illegal
transportation” of cattle.
Many states which have their own anti-slaughter laws, do not exclude specific areas like what
Assam proposes; to sell or buy beef and beef products.
Reacting to the Bill, Debabrata Saikia of Congress; Leader of the Opposition said there are a lot of problematic areas in the Bill and they are getting it examined by legal experts. “For example, the 5 km rule about beef. A stone can be laid and a ‘temple’ can be ‘built’ anywhere by anyone.
So it becomes very unclear. This may lead to a lot of communal tension,” he said.
Aminul Islam, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) legislator said, “this is not a Bill to
protect cows, or even respect cows. This has been brought to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims and polarise communities further. We oppose it and will try and bring in amendment
Assam’s proposed law will apply to all cattle that includes “bulls, bullocks, cows, calves, male
and female buffaloes and buffalo calves.” For purposes of the anti-slaughter Act, both
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh include only cow progeny, but not buffaloes.
The Assam Bill prohibits inter-state transport of cattle to and from, as well as through Assam
without valid documents. CM Sarma had earlier said that the proposed legislation was to ban
movement of cattle to check cattle smuggling to Bangladesh, which shares a 263 kilometre long
border with Assam. He also said that the 1950 Act lacked sufficient legal provisions to “regulate
slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle” and thus it was important to enact a new
As per the 1950 Act, cattle slaughter is allowed only for cattle “over 14 years of age” or those
“unfit for work” in Assam subject to a “fit for slaughter certificate” issued by a local veterinary
officer after examination. Under the new law, the same approval certificate for all cattle is
required. However, it adds that a cow cannot be slaughtered regardless of age.
“No certificate shall be issued unless the Veterinary Officer is of the opinion that the cattle, not
being a cow, is over fourteen years of age; or the cattle, not being a cow, or calf, has become
permanently incapacitated from work or breeding due to accidental injury or deformity” it says.
Section 7 of the Bill, ‘Prohibition on transport of cattle’, states that without a valid permit,
transport of cattle is banned from Assam to states where slaughter of cattle is not regulated by
law, and from one state to another “through” Assam. It also adds that cattle cannot be
transported within the state i.e. inter-district, without documents.However, no permission is required to transport cattle for grazing or other agricultural or animal husbandry purposes, as well as to and from registered animal markets, within a district.
The proposed law also gives police officers, not below the rank of sub-inspector, or any other
person authorised by the government, the power to “enter and inspect any premises” within
their jurisdiction where he has “reason to believe that an offence under the Act has been or is
likely to be committed.”
Anybody found guilty can be jailed for a term of minimum three years (extendable up to eight
years) and fined Rs 3 lakh (with the upper limit Rs 5 lakh), or both. For repeat offenders, the
punishment will be doubled.
The proposed legislation, however, allows for certain exemptions. It won’t apply to “religious occasions” when “slaughter of cattle, not being a cow or calf” is allowed.
The government also may establish gaushalas i.e. shelters to take care of recovered cattle.