Uttarakhand High Court declares itself as the legal guardian of the cows

In a bid to protect cows from illegal slaughtering and welfare of cows in the state, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday issued a comprehensive order to the state authorities.

A High Court bench comprising of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari issued the judgement while hearing a petition regarding illegal slaughtering of cows and other animals in the state. The petitioner had approached the court against the state, for failing in its duty to enforce the provisions of the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, 2007, Municipal Laws and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The Uttarakhand High Court has invoked the doctrine of ‘Parens patriae’ to become the legal guardian of cows and other stray cattle, directed the state to follow mandatory provisions towards cow protection. The bench has given an order which comprises of almost all pertinent issues relating to the protection of the cows. “The Court by invoking the ‘Parens patriae’ doctrine issues mandatory direction in the welfare of the cows and other stray cattle”, the bench said.

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The High Court, in its judgement, has invoked ‘Parens patriae’, which translates from Latin into “parent of his or her country”, which gives power to a state to provide protection to those who are unable to take care of themselves.

The Court, however widened the scope of the petition and took a strong note on the deficiencies in existing laws. The judgement highlighted the necessity to show compassion towards living creatures. It has also ordered banning slaughter and export “for the purpose of slaughter” of “any cow, bull, bullock, heifer or calf”, and selling of beef and beef products across Uttarakhand.

The court directed all Circle Officers in the state to “to patrol the rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered”. Further, the court directed that owners of cattle be prosecuted if the cattle are “found on the streets, roads and public places”. The case will be registered under Section 289, 428 and 429 of the IPC and also under various provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960 as well as section 7 of the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, 2007.

The court has directed the chief engineers of national highways and state highways, the village panchayats, and the municipal bodies to ensure that no stray cattle including cows and oxen come onto the roads. It has ordered the state functionaries to show “utmost compassion” towards cattle and no unnecessary pain and suffering is inflicted on them while being transported.

The High Court has instructed the District Magistrates, Municipal Corporation and municipal bodies including zila parishads to construct ‘Gau-Shalas’ in their respective jurisdiction for housing cow progeny and stray cattle within a period of one year. The court requested the religious heads to assist in the construction of such shelters.

For the treatment of stray cattle, the court mandated that all veterinary hospitals in the state to provide medical treatment to the “cows and animals” brought to them by any citizen. Earlier the Uttarakhand High Court had declared all animals, including avian and aquatic species, as legal entities, with the “rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”. In another judgement, the High Court had declared the River Ganga to be the first living entity of India.

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