The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter And Preservation Of Cattle Bill, 2010, — which was tabled in the legislature this session despite strong protests and is now awaiting passage — makes significant departures from the Karnataka Prevention Of Cow Slaughter And Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, starting with the very definition of the word “cattle”.

As the very title suggests, the Bill removes any distinction between “cow” and “cattle” and makes slaughter of all forms of cattle — including he and she buffaloes — a punishable crime. Slaughter of any cattle, irrespective of its age, will be deemed a crime if the Bill replaces the Act.

Total ban

Going a step ahead, Clause 5 prohibits not only slaughter, but also “usage and possession of beef” which would practically mean a complete ban on beef eating. Clause 8 states that not only slaughter, but “sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter” when the seller or buyer in question has “reason to believe that such cattle shall be slaughtered” will be deemed as committing crime.

In fact, any perceived “abetment” of slaughter or attempt to slaughter will also be punishable under the new law. Clause 14 of the Bill clearly states that “whoever abets any offence punishable under the Act or attempts to commit any such offence” also attracts punishment. This clause leaves wide room for interpretation, and indeed misuse, on what exactly amounts to abetment.

Huge penalty

There is a huge difference in nature of punishment as well, with the Bill introducing a penalty clause (Clause 12 and 13) that did not exist in the earlier Act. It deems slaughter or “cause to slaughter” of cattle a “cognisable and non-bailable” offence triable by the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class. An offender may be imprisoned for a minimum of one year and for a maximum of seven years. The fine can range between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.

Opening doors for what could eventually turn out to be privatisation of cattle protection, Clause 18 of the Bill says that the Government may direct associations and organisations to establish places to take care of cattle. It further says that the government “may levy such fees as may be prescribed for the maintenance of such institutions.” This, in effect, could mean that a farmer is not only barred from selling a cow or buffalo that is past its prime, but that he may have to pay a fee to an institution to maintain it.

Some deletions

The Bill makes two deletions in the 1964 Act. It replaces the word “authorised persons” with “competent authority” and gives powers only to officers of the government to inspect or book cases. While the earlier Act, said that district judge was the last appellate authority, the law awaiting approval has removed this cap.