The Madhya Pradesh government approved an amendment to the anti-cow slaughter law in the state on Wednesday (June 26) to make cow vigilantism punishable. The state cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Kamal Nath, cleared an amendment to the Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam, 2004, to include a fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 and jail term between a year and five years for those who engage in violence in the name of cow protection.
The existing law in the state, that completely prohibits the killing of cattle and keeping and transporting cow meat, does not mention violence or lynching in the name of cow. Cases related to cow vigilantism are currently dealt with under Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
"The amendment has been made keeping in mind the Supreme Court order...telling states to act tough on cow vigilantism," Additional Chief Secretary (Animal Husbandry) Manoj Shrivastava was quoted as saying in a Hindustan Times report.
Shrivastava said that to ensure safety for cow transporters, the law has made it mandatory for them to take a sub-divisional magistrate's permission. "The magistrate's permission will be a legal paper that should satisfy the gau rakshaks," said Animal Husbandry Minister Lakhan Singh Yadav.
Yadav also said that most cattle transporters do not carry documents to ascertain whether the cow is being transported for sale or slaughter, and often end up being harassed or beaten by the cow vigilantes.
In July 2018, a Supreme Court bench had said "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to overrun the law of the land and directed Parliament to enact stern laws so as to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures" to deal with cow vigilantism and mob lynching.
The recent move comes in the light of an incident in the state's Seoni district when five people thrashed three persons, including a Muslim man and woman, on suspicion of carrying beef on May 22.
All the five accused including their leader Shubham Singh Baghel - who identified himself as the Seoni district president of Hindutva organisation Shri Ram Sena - were arrested after two days.