Calf love

Is Uttarakhand showing the way for the whole country? Invoking the principle of parens patriae, the Uttarakhand High Court has declared itself the legal guardian of all bovine creatures in a reported ruling which suggests that concern for the cow is uppermost. The decision is fascinating. The doctrine of parens patriae applies to those cases where the State steps in to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Evidently cows, and not any group of vulnerable people in the state, are in need of official protection through a legal principle possibly formulated with human beings in mind. But this need not be seen as an inversion of values. The high court had indicated its preferred direction on July 4, when it declared all creatures, including flying and swimming ones, legal entities. So the latest decision is just the next logical step.

  • Published 17.08.18
  •  

Is Uttarakhand showing the way for the whole country? Invoking the principle of parens patriae, the Uttarakhand High Court has declared itself the legal guardian of all bovine creatures in a reported ruling which suggests that concern for the cow is uppermost. The decision is fascinating. The doctrine of parens patriae applies to those cases where the State steps in to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Evidently cows, and not any group of vulnerable people in the state, are in need of official protection through a legal principle possibly formulated with human beings in mind. But this need not be seen as an inversion of values. The high court had indicated its preferred direction on July 4, when it declared all creatures, including flying and swimming ones, legal entities. So the latest decision is just the next logical step.

The court reportedly presented its stance through references to earlier Supreme Court rulings, to the Upanishads and the Arthashastra, Buddhist and Jain teachings, and sayings of Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. All animals need to be cared for. But all animal-loving sentiments converge on the cow. Even though the court referred to the claims of all animals, the protection measures it has laid down are for bovines. The ban on cow slaughter and beef trade obviously stands. Further measures include scientific gaushalas free of commercial charges for electricity and water, free treatment for cows at veterinary centres when an ailing stray is brought in, and strict legal penalties for people discovered to be owners of wandering animals. This last may take care of stray cattle - they endanger motorists and eat up crops. The onus to correct this situation is on the people, of course. Squads of policemen will be patrolling all regions regularly to catch the culprit who dares neglect the cow. Even transporting the animals -legally - will have fixed speed limits, so that they are not hurt. Religious leaders should help in the building of gaushalas. No doubt it is important to make the link between religion and cows perfectly clear. Their presence may even stop the numerous cow deaths happening in gaushalas throughout north India. But will there be enough policemen to stem the enthusiasm of gau rakshaks who might find the protection measures inspiring?

About
Author