GUWAHATI: Putting an end to all controversies over the slaughter of animals on the occasion of Bakrid, the Gauhati High Court on Saturday clarified that animal slaughter on Bakrid or Idd-uz-Zuha is permissible under the provision of law.

Hours after the High Court order, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made a fervent appeal to the Muslim community to follow the Assam Cattle Preservation Rules, 2021 which forbids the sacrifice of cows or consumption of beef in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and other non-beef eating communities and exhorted for not sacrificing any animal during Bakrid which may hurt the religious sentiments of other communities.

There were a lot of controversies over animal sacrifice this time following the order of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to stop the illegal killing, and sacrifice of cattle, calves, camels and other animals and take action against the offenders for violation of Transport of Animals Rules on the occasion.

Following the directive, on July 7, the government of Assam also notified the deputy commissioner (DC) and superintendent of police (SP) of all districts in the state to ensure that the “illegal sacrifice” of animals during Eid does not take place.

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The joint secretary to the Government of Assam, KK Sharma, in a letter referred to a notification from the Animal Welfare Board of India under the ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying of the government of India. The letter directed to stop the illegal killing, and the sacrifice of cattle, calves, camels and other animals.

Noted lawyer Hifzur Rahman Chowdhury who challenged the two communications by the Animal Welfare Board of India and Government of India on July 9 contented that the communications are in violation of the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Assam Cattle Prevention Act, 2021 and referred to various provisions including the proviso to Section 6 of the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 2021 and contended that the state government can exempt certain places of worship or certain occasions for religious purposes and on that premise, has sought clarification regarding the permissibility of lawful animal sacrifice on the occasion of Bakrid as there is some confusion in this connection.

A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Manash Ranjan Pathak and Manish Choudhury of the Gauhati High Court while disposing of a PIL observed that neither the directives contained in the letter dated July 7 of the AWBI nor the directives contained in the letter dated July 4 of the Assam government are found repugnant to any of the provisions contained in the Prevention of Cruelty Animal Act, 1960 and the Rules and Regulations framed under it, the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 including the Rules and Regulations framed under it as well as the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 2021 including the Assam Cattle Preservation Rules, 2022. 

However, the High Court opined, “It is however appropriate to clarify that slaughter of animals on the occasion of Bakrid, save and except the prohibitions contained in the aforementioned statutes, is permissible, in the manner as provided therein.”

In the PIL, the petitioner has challenged two communications stating that those violate the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Assam Cattle Prevention Act, 2021.

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Choudhury has submitted that the Board has no such power, jurisdiction or authority to issue any such communications to the authorities concerned in the state government regarding stopping such sacrifice of animals on the occasion of Bakrid or any other religious festivals of the country.

The petitioner submitted that the state government has not formulated any rules under the 2021 Act, but during the deliberation of the matter, it is stated in the bar that the Assam Cattle Preservation Rules, 2022 framed under the said 2021 Act have come into force from June 7. 

The petitioner submitted that the impugned communications on July 7 of the Secretary to the AWBI and the consequential communication dated July 4 of the state government cannot override the statutory provisions made in the 2021 Act as well as the 2022 Rules.

Shajid Khan

Shajid Khan is Northeast Now Correspondent in Udalguri. He can be reached at: itsshajidkhan@gmail.com