Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021 - An Attack on The Right to Life
Lakshadweep Animal Protection Regulation 2021, introduced by, the incumbent administrator of Lakshadweep, Praful Patel, have undergone stringent scrutiny by Human rights activists and public figures, while having received immense criticism from the residents of Lakshadweep. This Article analyses the regulation in detail to ascertain the cause for the strong damnation it received, and to identify plausible solutions to resolve the contention. In order to achieve the aim of this study, the author has picked up specific provisions from the disputed legislation, that ban cow slaughter and hence seem outwardly arbitrary because of their potential impact on the right to life and privacy of the residents of Lakshadweep; and has analysed them in the context of the following, but not limited to – The Indian Constitution; The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant case laws.
Keywords: Lakshadweep; Article 21; Right to life; Lakshadweep Animal Protection regulation 2021
The Union Territory of Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands comprising of twelve atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks and ten inhabited islands, situated off the Malabar coast of India, in the Arabian ocean at the peak of the Indo-pacific region. As per Article 239 (1) of the Indian Constitution, Lakshadweep being a Union territory, is directly managed and controlled by the President, who acts through an appointed administrator. The centre through the administrator, Praful Patel, has brought in four controversial reform bills, one of them being the Animal Preservation Regulation 2021.
THE LAKSHADWEEP ANIMAL PRESERVATION REGULATION, 2021
The Lakshadweep animal preservation regulation, 2021 (LAPR), proposed by the incumbent administrator, in its section 5 prohibits the slaughter of an animal on Lakshadweep, without an authorization, which is a written certificate issued by the competent authority, explicitly certifying the animal being slaughtered to be fit for slaughter. This legislation specifically excludes cows, calves of cows, bulls, and bullocks from the condition, and completely bans them from being slaughtered, sold or consumed on the islands. While it may be assumed that the draft regulation potentially protects the cattle that is useful in agriculture and milk production on the Island, the bill does not provide any justification for including the cattle under the ambit of the act.
This legislature has attracted significant opposition and denunciation by the residents, activists, ex-administrators, and sympathizers from the Mainland, who criticize some provisions of the legislature for being draconian and violative of the basic Constitutional and Human rights of the residents. However, the strong condemnation of this particular Act might seem unwarranted to anyone who might compare the legislation in question with regulations passed in other parts of India, that place blanket bans over cow slaughter through respective state legislatures similar to the one contented, without acknowledging the cultural and social differences between the lives of a resident of Lakshadweep and that of resident of Mainland India. The majority population of Lakshadweep consists of Sunni Muslims. Therefore, traditionally beef and beef products have been an inextricable part of their routine diet with - fruits, grains, and vegetables being considered a luxury on the island. Owing to this, a complete ban on beef infringes on their innate cultural, ethnic and customary eating habits, and would violate their right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of an individual, as guaranteed under Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The two landmark Supreme Court judgements of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi and others vs the State of Bihar, and the State of Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab, that concern the State legislatures banning animal slaughter discussed above, talk about the violation of Article 19(1)(g) and Article 25 of the Constitution, but do not recognise the violation of the right to life of the plaintiffs, in contrast to the LAPR, where the major dispute pertains to the right to life of the residents. It is imperative to clarify the grounds on which this Article argues that the Lakshadweep legislature in particular is different in this aspect from its counterparts and carries an implication over the right to life of the residents of Lakshadweep.
In the case of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi, the court found that, since the cattle, breeding bulls and bullocks; that were required for supplying milk, agricultural work power, and manure, were in short supply, a total ban on their slaughter was in the public interest and thereby stood to be a reasonable restriction on the rights under Articles 19(1)(g) and 25. Nonetheless, the court iterated that the bans protecting the useless cattle – that includes but is not limited to lactating cattle that loose the milk producing capacity due to disease or old age, or draught cattle that loose the physical capacity to offer draught services due to disease or accident – have resulted in a wasteful drain on the crucial national resources. Hence, the court scrapped the protection extended over redundant animals under the legislative bans over animal slaughter.
However, in the 2005 judgment of Moti Quareshi Kasab, the court partially reversed the above decision.
1) It underscored India’s progress in resources, compared to the year 1958 when the decision was delivered. It said that fodder shortage and food security were no longer concerning for the nation. Therefore, the court justified a blanket ban on those cows, calves of cows, bulls, and bullocks, which no longer performed their respective functions.
2) It further argued that a total prohibition only impacted a part of a butcher’s profession, as he was free to slaughter any animal apart from a cow or a calf. Hence, the court justified it as not violative of Article 19 of the Constitution.
But, if we shift our focus to the legislature in Lakshadweep, we realize that Lakshadweep’s society is primitive, and the main occupation carried on is coconut cultivation and fishing. Even though several Indian states have made significant progress in the availability of food grains and other resources, Lakshadweep has remained backwards due to its geographical isolation from the Indian Mainland and its infertile soil. Hence, it experiences a limited availability of food crops that are essential for subsistence. Therefore, traditionally meat and beef have filled the gaps in the dietary requirements of the residents of Lakshadweep, to the extent that, beef and meat products are considered a part of the staple diets of the residents of Lakshadweep.
The mid-day meal (MDM) scheme in Lakshadweep began in mid-1950s. Since then, the students are served with their staple meal - Dhal, Green gram, Fish, Egg, Meat, and Chicken along with rice - that is liked by the students. The meal served is as per the eating habits of the students, and liked by them. Due to the spectacular quality control procedures followed at the regional level in Lakshadweep, the food being served under the MDM schemes is hygienic and maintains the correct nutritional, hence limiting malnutrition and maximizing student retention. However, in the light of LAPR, the administrator has removed chicken, lamb, and other meat dishes from the MDM scheme, potentially altering the nutritional balance in the menu and robs it off the elements traditionally liked by the students as their staple diet.
Section - 9 of the LAPR empowers the authorities to enter any premises to conduct an inspection to ensure public compliance with the Act. The section institutes a binding on the occupants of such premises to allow a free and cooperative inspection, violating the right to privacy of the residents of Lakshadweep guaranteed under Article-21 of the Indian Constitution, in addition to overruling Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that protects people from arbitrary interference with their privacy and home. The section in itself is very vague and does not specify the entity empowered to conduct the said inspection. Moreover, it does not even specify the procedure to conduct such an inspection, thereby leaving a room for abuse of power in future. The K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India judgment in 2017 brought privacy under the ambit of right to life, and defined it as the right to be left alone and be secluded from intrusions of any manner, although being subject to the reasonable restrictions by the State in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order and morality. In the context of the Lakshadweep Act, one can try and justify Section 9 by equating it with the said reasonable restriction of the State. However, this reasoning is flawed as the provisions in Section 9 of LAPR do not fulfil the above stated criteria of being in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India, or being necessary for maintaining public order and morality.
Section 10 of the Act lays down the penalties an individual potentially attracts on violating the law, extending up to imprisonment for life for slaughtering a cow, calves of cow, bulls, and bullocks, with a minimum fine of one lac rupees and a maximum fine of five lac rupees; a minimum term of 7 years for consuming beef and beef products with a maximum fine of 5 lac rupees and a minimum fine of 1 lac rupees. These terms seem ruthless and arbitrary from the outset compared to those provided in the other State legislatures mentioned above that impose imprisonment for six months to two years at the maximum, with or without a fine of Rs.10,000.
So, the Regulation fails to consider the eating habits of the residents of Lakshadweep, that are deeply entrenched in their routine, while violating the Article 14 of the Constitution due to its arbitrary nature, as outlined in the case of Om Kumar vs. Union of India, based on the Principle of Wednesbury unreasonableness, that categorises an act to be arbitrary when an authority while exercising discretion decides without any plausible justification and mandate.
THE ANOMALY OF PRECEDENCE
However, it's argued that the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021 is in line with the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) under Article 48 of the Constitution, which calls upon the State to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on scientific lines, in addition, explicitly stating the obligation of the Government to ban the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught animals to safeguard and enhance their breeds in the Country. As per Article 37 of the Constitution, it is the State's responsibility to consider the DPSPs while drafting its policies. However, the major question that arises is whether the DPSPs hold precedence over the fundamental rights. Accordingly, it has to be ascertained whether LAPR is protected on the ground that it implements the directive in Article 48 of the Constitution, despite being violative of the right to life enshrined in Article 21?
Firstly, according to Article 37 itself, the directives laid down in Part IV of the Constitution are mere directions for the Government to follow during law-making and hence are not justifiable under any court of law. Therefore, an Indian resident cannot be legally forced to follow or comply with any DPSP under Part IV. Moreover, in the case of Minerva mills vs. UOI, the Hon'ble Supreme Court opined that the provisions of both Part III and Part IV are integral to the Constitution. The Government must implement the directives under Part IV without overriding any rights under Part III. In the case of Kesavananda Bharati vs. the State of Kerela, it was stated that the balance between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policies is a characteristic feature of the Constitution. If disrupted, it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. Therefore, the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021, - which evades the right to life under Article 21, cannot be considered legitimate merely because it enforces the directive under Article 48 of the Constitution.
In the context of the Lakshadweep archipelago, it would have been better if the administrator had brought in the law to protect the productive cattle from slaughter with harvesting allowed only for those who have lost their utility and become redundant. In doing this, a balance could have been achieved between the population numbers of both the productive and unproductive cattle on the island, in turn reducing the growing dependence of the ineffective animals on the scarce resources of the islands. This would prove beneficial, both for the Residents and for the Government as the former would be allowed to freely consume beef and beef products, while the Government would significantly save the vital resources of the Island spent on maintaining the unproductive cattle, and so could reallocate them to better uses such as enhancing the development of vital resources of the island.
The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021 in itself is arbitrary and draconian and exhibits a reckless and short-sighted approach towards the culture of Lakshadweep. Although, it might have been introduced for a novel and reform-based objective of preserving the exclusive animal breeds found on the island, however, the placement of the arbitrary ban over the slaughter and consumption of cows, calves of cows, bulls and bullocks comes at the expense of the basic Constitutional and Human Rights that are guaranteed to the residents, due to which, the benefits of this Act do not justify its costs.
This piece has been authored by Kunal Bansal.
Kunal Bansal is a class XII student from Bhavan Vidyalaya, Chandigarh, who aspires to pursue his career in law.
Image Source: https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2021/feb/28/lakshadweep-administrations-beef-ban-proposal-triggers-row-in-island-2269997.html