The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday invoked the doctrine of ‘parens patriae’ to become the legal guardian of cows and other stray cattle, thereby giving a slew of “mandatory directions” towards cow protection. “The Court by invoking the ‘parens patriae’ doctrine issues mandatory directions…in the welfare of the cows and other stray cattle,” the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari stated in an order banning slaughter and export “for purpose of slaughter” of “any cow, bull, bullock, heifer or calf”, and selling of beef and beef products across Uttarakhand.
‘Parens patriae’, which translates from Latin into “parent of his or her country” is the power that could be invoked by a state regarded as a sovereign to provide protection to those who are unable to take care of themselves.
The court directed all Circle Officers in the state to “to patrol the rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered”. Further, the court directed that owners of cattle be prosecuted if the cattle are “found on the streets, roads and public places”.
For smooth traffic flow, the chief engineers of national highways and state highways, the village panchayats, and the municipal bodies, have been directed to ensure that “no stray cattle come onto the roads”. To ensure the safety of stray cattle while being removed from the roads, the court order directed that “utmost compassion” must be shown by state functionaries towards cattle and “no unnecessary pain and suffering is inflicted” on them.
“In case the (stray) cattle are transported, in that eventuality, there should be a provision for construction of ramps and the vehicles should be driven at speeds not more than 10-15 kms/hour to avoid injuries to the animals, being transported,” the order said.
The Division Bench was hearing a PIL filed in the year 2017 by one Alim from from the Sohalpur Gada village in Roorkee tehsil of Haridwar district, where he had sought the court’s intervention to stop the illegal cow slaughter in his village. However, the High Court enlarged the scope of the PIL to give directions for cow protection across the state.
While the High Court gave the order on Friday, the written order to the effect was issued on Monday.
In the order, the court directed the state government “to register cases against the persons who leave vagrant any cow progeny and free for wandering a cow after milking her”. For the treatment of stray cattle, the court mandated all veterinary hospitals in the state to provide medical treatment to the “cows and animals” brought to them by any citizen.
The construction of infirmaries, and “gaushalas” or shelters for stray cattle “on scientific lines, taking into consideration the comfort of animals to be housed there”, was also ordered to the village level and district level authorities, with additional directions levying “no commercial charges for supplying the electricity and water connections” in the cow shelters. The court requested the religious heads to assist in the construction of such shelters.
Further, it was directed that “special squads” for cow protection be formed in the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of the state.
On July 4 the high court had declared all animals, including avian and aquatic species, as legal entities, with the “rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”. In the order issued on Monday, the court reiterated the directions of the order declaring all animals as legal entities, and asked the state government to ensure that the directions upholding rights of all animals are followed.