For the very first time in India, Uttarakhand High Court on Monday invoked the doctrine of ‘parens patriae’ to declare itself as the legal guardian of all bovine class animals including cows. With this direction court gave the mandatory directions to protect the cows across state and issued 31 directions to the state government, including setting up a cow shelter for every cluster of 25 villages and registering cases against those who abandon their cattle.

Uttarakhand High court move on this issue is being welcomed in all sections of society. ‘Parens patriae’ is Latin for “parent of the nation” and is a doctrine that grants the court inherent power and authority to act as guardian for those who are unable to take care for themselves. However, in India’s history such doctrine has been invoked for cows for the very first time, thus giving legal protection to cows and other stray animals. Bench comprising acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari in a detailed 41 page order stressed out on various steps to be taken for protection of cows. Citing various writings of Supreme Court rulings, excerpts from Upanishads and Arthshastra as well as teachings of Jainism and Buddhism to stress out the importance of caring of animals, judges gave directions to state. Judges also made a comment that ‘No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them.’

“If there are any violations in laws and rules regarding cows, the court can take suo moto cognizance and issue directions to the state”, Senior advocate DK Joshi explained. Paresh Tripathi, who represented the state government in the case, said by invoking the ‘parens patriae’ doctrine, the high court has become the voice of the cows and stray cattle in the state. The court was responding to the PIL filed by Alim Ali, a Haridwar based farmer.

The court also pointed out that as informed by state, there is an alarming number of cows being slaughtered and a number os FIRs are being registered under the provisions of the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, 2007”.

The court also asked the state government to register cases against people who abandon cows and owners of cattle found on the streets, roads and public places under the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, 2007.

Court stressed that “it is the responsibility of the state under Article 48A to protect and improve the environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife of the country”, the court also directed all civic bodies in the state to construct “gaushalas/gausadans” or shelters/homes for housing cows and other stray cattle within one year, and said that no commercial charges should be levied on these Gaushalas or shelter homes for supply of water and electricity.

Moreover, the state government was directed to set up a special squad to be headed by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police in both the Kumaon and Garhwal regions with one veterinary doctor to protect cows. The court banned slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks, heifers or calves in the state and ruled that no person shall sell beef or beef products in any form in Uttarakhand. Slaughter of cows, bulls and calves is already banned in the state under the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, which provides for a jail term of up to 10 years imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine or both for cow slaughter or selling cow meat.

It is important to note that in July this year the same court declared entire animal kingdom as a legal entity with the right, duties and liabilities of a living person. In 2017, same court recognized holy river Ganga as a living entity and remarked that Ganga River is entitled to the same rights as other living entities.