The cow is politicised, weaponised and debated upon as much as it is revered. This diversity in conceptions applies to the judiciary, too. While some judges validate commonly held, unscientific myths surrounding the cow, other judges, in many instances, proffer sensible advice to the state, ruling in favour of human rights. Presented here are but a few instances of the courts having to step in and pass orders on contentious issues related to the cow and its protection
November 2022: A Sessions Court judge in Gujarat’s Tapi district, while stressing the need for protecting cows, said, “Science has proved [that] houses made of cow dung remain unaffected by atomic radiation.” The judge also claimed that all of humanity’s problems will be solved the day “no drop of cow’s blood drops on the earth”.
January 2022: The Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, while hearing a contempt petition over the state government’s non-compliance of its earlier order on rehabilitation of stray cattle, interjected the state’s submission (that proper action has been taken), saying, “For your information, when the car of the Chief Justice was entering the High Court, there were about 10–12 cattle which had blocked the road. Even the police whistling did not move [the cattle]… it stood like a rock…”
February 2022: The Karnataka High Court directed the state government to set up a gaushala (cow shelter) in every village in order to prevent cow slaughter under Section 19 of the Karnataka Livestock Prevention and Protection Act.
August 2022: The Allahabad High Court observed that the mere transportation of a cow and its progeny within the state was not a violation of any of the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Cow Slaughter Act. The court maintained that no permit was required to transport cows within the state.
June 2022: The Allahabad High Court granted bail to a man booked under the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, on the condition that he ‘serves’ cows for a month in a gaushala and deposits Rs. 1 lakh in favour of a registered cow shelter.
September 2021: The Allahabad High Court said that the cow should be declared as the national animal and gau raksha (cow protection) be included as a fundamental right of Hindus. The judge, while denying bail to a person from Sambhal who had been jailed on charges of allegedly stealing a cow and slaughtering it, shared his belief that the cow was the only animal that inhaled and exhaled oxygen. Invoking mythology at several places in the 12-page order, the judge further stated that there was a tradition of offering cow ghee (clarified butter) to Hindu gods which provided ‘special energy’ to the sun.
August 2021: An act of slaughtering a cow in the secrecy of one’s own house in the wee hours, probably because of poverty, unemployment or hunger, may be described as a case involving law and order but not a matter affecting public order, the Allahabad High Court noted, while quashing the detention order of three men from Sitapur under the National Security Act.
October 2020: The Allahabad High Court expressed concern over the ‘misuse’ of the anti-cow slaughter law in Uttar Pradesh to implicate “innocent persons”. “Whenever any meat is recovered, it is normally shown as cow meat (beef) without getting it examined or analysed by the Forensic Laboratory. In most of the cases, the meat is not sent for analysis,” said the judge while granting bail to a person accused of cow slaughter.
2017: The Rajasthan High Court recommended that the state government regard the cow as a ‘legal entity’ and
declare it as the national animal by making a representation to the Centre.
(This appeared in the print edition as "Court Unquote")