In a landmark judgment, the Allahabad High Court has ruled that Uttar Pradesh’s law banning cow slaughter does not forbid the transportation of beef. A petition was filed challenging an order wherein a motorcycle had been confiscated under the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955
A single bench of Justice Pankaj Bhatia allowed a criminal revision filed by Vaseem Ahmad, who had moved the Court challenging an order of the Fatehpur district magistrate regarding confiscation of his motorcycle on the allegation that it was used for transportation of beef. His motorcycle had been confiscated under Section 5A(7) of the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955.
The Allahabad High Court said that to deprive a person of his property, it is essential that the Act framed by the legislature prescribes for power of confiscation subject to any limitations prescribed therein. The High Court said that Uttar Pradesh’s law banning cow slaughter does not forbid the transportation of beef.
An FIR was registered under Section 8/5/3 of the Cow Slaughter Act. It was alleged that four persons who were on two motorcycles were apprehended, and on being challenged, fled leaving behind the motorcycles. On inspection of the motorcycles, 200 grams of beef was allegedly recovered from a bag. The superintendent of police, Fatehpur, submitted his report, stating that the person was chargesheeted for commission of an offence under Section 3/5A/8 of the Cow Slaughter Act as he was transporting beef on the motorcycle which was made a case property and is liable to be confiscated.
The district magistrate, empowered by Section 5A(7), proceeded to pass an order of confiscation, recording that in terms of the report given by the superintendent of police, Fatehpur, regarding involvement of the vehicle in question in transportation of beef, an offence was registered under Section 3/5A/8 of the Cow Slaughter Act, As the person could not produce any credible evidence to the contrary showing that the vehicle was not used for transportation as such, the same was liable for confiscation under Section 5A (7) of the Cow Slaughter Act.
The Court, however, said that to appreciate the issue at hand, it is essential to look into the provisions of the Cow Slaughter Act. Section 2(a) of the Cow Slaughter Act defines beef as flesh of cow, but does not include beef in sealed containers imported into Uttar Pradesh.
Section 3 of the Act says that no person shall transport or offer for transporting or cause to be transported any cow or bull or bullock, the slaughter of which is punishable under the Act, from any place within the state to any place outside the state except on a permit issued by the state government. Section 5A(7) of the Act states that the vehicle by which the beef or cow and its progeny is transported in violation of the provisions of this Act and the relevant rules shall be confiscated and seized by the law enforcement officers, and the district magistrate/commissioner of police is empowered to take proceedings of confiscation and release in respect of the seized vehicle.
The Court observed that on the reading of the provisions of the Act and the rules framed thereunder, it is clear that the vehicle on which the beef is alleged to be transported can be confiscated only in terms of the mandate of Rule 7 of Section 5A. To attract the power of confiscation conferred by virtue of Rule 7 of Section 5A, it is essential to establish that the vehicle on which beef is being transported is done in violation of the provisions of this Act and the relevant rules. For transportation of cow, bull or bullock, specific rules for issuance of permit are prescribed under Rule 16. However, the transportation of the cow, bull or bullock, within Uttar Pradesh does not require any permit as has been held by this Court in Ashfaq Ahmad vs State of UP & Another 9 (1) ACR 233.
The Court stated that Article 300-A of the Constitution prescribes that “no one shall be deprived of his property except in accordance with law. The ‘law’ it is fairly well settled, should be a law framed by the Legislature. Thus, to deprive a person of his property, it is essential that the Act framed by the Legislature prescribes for power of confiscation and subject to any limitations prescribed therein.”
The Court further observed that the only power traceable for confiscation of a vehicle alleged to be transporting beef is traceable to Section 5A (7) which applies only when the beef or the cow is being transported in violation of the provisions of this Act. The restrictions on transportation in terms of the Act and the rules framed thereunder is only applicable in respect of transportation of cow, bull or bullock that too in any place in Uttar Pradesh from any place outside the state. In the entire Act or the rules, there exists no provision barring transportation of beef. The restriction placed under Section 5A of the Cow Slaughter Act is only in respect of transportation of cow, bull or bullock that too only from a place outside the state to any place within the state. There is no bar or restriction of transport of beef even from any place outside the state to any place inside the state.
The Court observed that in this case, the allegation of transporting beef on a vehicle within two places in state is neither prohibited nor even regulated. Thus, the foundation for confiscation on charge of transportation in violation of the provision of this Act is prima facie not established.
The Court further said that in this case, the allegation on the person “is of transporting beef on the motorcycle within the State of Uttar Pradesh which is neither prohibited nor restrained even on a plain reading of Section 5A(1) of the Cow Slaughter Act, as such, I have no hesitation in holding that the power of confiscation has been exercised without any authority of law and on a misreading of Section 5A(7) of the Cow Slaughter Act and for the said reasons the confiscation order cannot be sustained and is liable to be quashed.”
In September 2023, a group of cow vigilantes belonging to far-right Hindutva body Sri Ram Sena attacked beef traders and set ablaze their vehicle leading the police to arrest 22 persons allegedly involved in the incident. It was reported that the vehicles were carrying 30 tonnes of beef. They have been booked under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony).
According to a viral video, the traders were transporting beef from Hindupur in Andhra Pradesh to Bangaluru when the incident occurred. The goons, dressed in saffron scarves, intercepted four pick-up trucks and a mini-goods vehicle, surrounding the traders and chanting aggressively “Jai Shri Ram”. According to sources, Doddaballapur police reached the spot and brought the situation under control. The police had to resort to lathi charge to disperse the crowd. “We have registered three FIRs in connection with the incident, and 22 people have been detained,” Bengaluru Rural Superintendent of Police Mallikarjuna Baladandi told reporters. The police claimed to have seized 18 tonnes of beef worth over Rs 26 lakh from the five vehicles, he said.
In 2022, a 35-year-old Muslim man was allegedly beaten up by a group of cow vigilantes in Mathura’s Raal village over suspicion that he was carrying beef. In the video the victim is identified as 35-year-old Mohammad Aamir being thrashed by a group of men with belts. The victim was not carrying beef in his vehicle. It was only bones of dead animals, not of cows. Aamir was taking them to a factory for processing. He had a licence.
An FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint filed by Aamir. According to the FIR, Aamir was on his way to Sikandra Rao when he was stopped by the group of men who started “abusing” and pelting stones at him as well as his vehicle. “The atmosphere soon turned hostile. They threatened to kill me and forced me out of my vehicle and started thrashing me. The two men who were travelling with me ran away. They dismantled my vehicle and turned it over on the roadside. Police officers and some villagers saved me.”
—By Adarsh Kumar and India Legal Bureau