The Government of Karnataka, on 20th January 2021, informed the Karnataka High Court that no coercive action shall be instituted against offenders of Section 5 of Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Ordinance, 2020” (hereinafter referred to as ‘Ordinance’). Section 5 of the said Ordinance reads, “Restriction on Transport of Cattle: no person shall transport or offer for transport or cause to be transported by whatever means any cattle from any place within the State to any other place within the State for slaughter: Provided that, the transport of any cattle, in the manner prescribed by the State Government or Central Government, for bona-fide agricultural or animal husbandry purpose shall not be construed as an offence under this section.”

The Ordinance, which was passed on 5th January 2021, prohibited Slaughter of Cattle defined as “cow, calf of a cow and bull, bullock and he or she buffalo below the age of thirteen years”, under Section 4 of the Ordinance; and Restricted Transport of Cattle under Section 5 of the Ordinance. The Court showed concern, particularly for Section 5 of the Ordinance as it poses to cause “practical difficulties” to farmers and Cattle owners. The Court was therefore hearing two Pleas, seeking quashing of the Ordinance on the ground that it violates the Right of Freedom of Trade and Occupation under Article 19(1)(g); it imposes a ban on slaughter of animals for food, depriving the citizens of making the choice of consuming the food of their liking, hence violating Right to Food under Article 21. The petition also stated that Beef was an integral part of Mangalorean cuisine, however the ordinance prevented the citizens from consuming Beef, violating Article 29 of the Constitution.  (Article 29 protects the interests of the minorities by making a provision that any citizen / section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture have the right to conserve the same.) The Pleas further prayed that the Ordinance shall be termed unconstitutional by the High Court of Karnataka.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum remarked that the Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi conveyed that although Rules governing the same have been framed, there is still time for them to be brought into force, and once the Rules are in force, the State Government would move the Court so that the Petitioners are put to Notice regarding the same. During the hearing, the Bench also observed that, “The effect of proviso to section 5, is that even if a person wants to travel with the cattle for bonafide purpose unless he complies with rules it will be an offence. This will create a problem; the person will be hauled up or may be taken into custody.”

Bearing the aforementioned in mind, the Karnataka High Court has granted time to the State Government of Karnataka until 20th February 2021, to file its objections and further hearing of the two Petitions is scheduled on 26th February 2021, to determine the Constitutional Validity of the impugned Ordinance.