A controversial law banning cow slaughter in Karnataka, which prescribes stiff punishment including seven years in jail and Rs 10 lakh fine for offenders, was passed last night in the assembly without discussion after an opposition walkout.
The main opposition Congress is boycotting the assembly in protest against the way the bill was introduced - without prior notice -- and passed. "The Congress always does these things. I would request them to attend the assembly," said Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa today, asserting that bills need not be listed on the agenda before tabling.
After the bill was tabled in the assembly earlier in the day, cows were brought into the Vidhana Soudha, or Secretariat, and Animal Husbandry Minister Prabhu Chavan performed a puja for them, announcing with pride later that it was the first time a "Gau (cow) Puja" had taken place there.
"This is the blessing of the six crore people of Karnataka (and) of senior leaders. I thank the Chief Minister and the leaders for giving me this opportunity. This is the first time that the cow puja has been done here," Mr Chavan told NDTV.
Karnataka joins other BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in bringing a tough law against cow slaughter and beef, which is defined in the new law as the flesh of cattle including cows, calves, bulls, bullocks and buffalos below 13.
The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill-2020 seeks a total ban on the slaughter of cows in the state and imposes stringent punishment for those guilty of smuggling, illegal transportation, atrocities on cows or their slaughter.
Offenders can face three to seven years in jail or a fine of Rs 50,000 per cattle, which could go up to Rs five lakh. In case of repeat offence, the fine can be Rs one lakh to 10 lakh per animal along with seven years' jail. For the transport, selling and buying of cattle, the punishment ranges from three years to five years with a fine of Rs 50,000.
The law provides for special courts to fast-track trials and the police will have powers to conduct searches and make seizures.
Those who take care of cattle will be protected, says the law.
When the government tabled the bill, Congress MLAs led by Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah rushed to the centre of the house and raised slogans. They alleged the bill was tabled without discussion in the meeting which decides the agenda of the assembly.
"We had discussed yesterday that new bills will not be tabled. We had agreed that only the ordinances will be passed. Now he (Chavan) has all of a sudden introduced this anti-cow slaughter bill," said former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
"Only a coward government, which can't debate, can behave like this. They can't stop us through their autocratic behaviour. We will take this to the people to fight against BJP's corruption and despotism," Mr Siddaramaiah said in a series of tweets after the bill was passed.
The Congress alleges that the law will be misused to polarise people on communal lines and target Muslims.
Mr Chavan referred to similar laws in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat and had a led a team of officials to these states to study their implementation. BJP's Karnataka chief Nalin Kumar Kateel said the smuggling of cattle had instilled "fear" among the farmers, cow protectors and cowherds and was "affecting social harmony".