The Assam assembly on Friday passed a bill to regulate the slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle, notwithstanding the walkout staged by the opposition parties in protest against the government's refusal to forward the legislation to a select committee.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party members shouted 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Jai Shri Ram' slogans and thumped desks as soon as Speaker Biswajit Daimary announced the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 as passed.
The lone Independent legislator, Akhil Gogoi, had walked out of the House when the bill was taken up for consideration.
The Opposition Congress, AIUDF and CPI-M had urged the government to refer the bill to an Assembly select committee for vetting, but Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, during his reply on a discussion on the legislation, rejected the proposal.
Sarma, in his response, said the bill had no bad intention and claimed it will strengthen communal harmony.
The legislation doesn't intend to stop anyone from consuming beef, but the person who eats must also respect the religious sentiments of others, the CM said.
"It can't be that only Hindus are responsible for maintaining communal harmony, Muslims must also reciprocate," he added.
On the objection to a clause in the bill that prohibits cow slaughter within 5-km radius of temples or satras, Sarma claimed that there are "kilometres and kilometres of area with no temples, and 70,000-80,000 habitations in the state have no Hindus at all".
He, however, accepted an amendment moved by AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam to remove 'buffaloes' from the definition in the Bill.
Sarma, while introducing the Bill in the House on July 12, had said that the legislation seeks to ensure that permission for slaughter wasn't granted to areas that are predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef eating communities or places that fall within five-kilometre radius of a temple, satra, and any other institution as maybe prescribed by the authorities.
Exemptions might be granted for certain religious occasions, he noted.
The chief minister had further said that there was an imperative need to enact a new legislation and repeal the earlier Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which lacked sufficient legal provisions to regulate the slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle.
The new law, when enacted, will prohibit a person from slaughtering cattle unless he has obtained the necessary certificate issued by the registered veterinary officer of a particular area.
According to the bill, the veterinary officer will issue a certificate only if he is of the opinion that the bovine, not being a cow, is over 14 years of age.
A cow, heifer or calf may be slaughtered only if it is permanently incapacitated, it said.
Also, only duly licensed or recognised slaughter houses will be allowed to butcher cattle, the bill maintained.
The new legislation will check transport of bovines within the state or outside, if valid documents are not made available to the authorities.
There will, however, no restriction on ferrying cattle for agricultural purposes within a district.
One does not need to take permission for transporting cattle to and from registered animal markets for the purpose of sale and purchase within a district.
All offences under this new legislation shall be cognisable and non-bailable.
Anybody found guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years or fine that may vary between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh or both. If someone convicted under the new law is found guilty of the same or a related offence the second time, the punishment will be doubled.
The legislation shall extend to the whole of Assam and the term 'cattle' shall apply to bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves.