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IN A significant ruling the Supreme Court has said the controversial issue of a ban on cow slaughter was a policy matter on which the decision has to be taken by the government. The court dismissed a petition seeking the prohibition of the practice since it hurt Hindu sentiments.

A bench comprising Justice G P Mathur and Justice P K Balasubramanyan said, “It is not within the domain of the court to issue a direction for a ban on slaughter of cows, buffaloes and horses as it is a matter of policy on which the decision has to be taken by the government.” The court said a complete ban of this nature can only be imposed by legislation enacted by the appropriate legislature. Courts cannot issue any direction to Parliament or to state legislatures to enact a particular kind of law, said Justice Mathur writing the verdict.

The enactment of law is purely a legislative realm, in which the court cannot interfere, the bench said. This question was considered by the apex court in a number of cases, said Justice Mathur.

In the Union of India Vs Prakash P Hinduja & Anr (another) case, the court had said that under our constitutional scheme Parliament exercises sovereign power to enact laws and no outside power or authority can issue a direction to enact a particular piece of legislation. In the case of Supreme Court Employees’ Welfare Association Vs Union of India, it was again held that no court can direct a legislature to enact a particular law.

Similarly, when an executive authority exercises a legislative power by way of a subordinate legislation pursuant to the delegated authority of a legislature, such executive authority cannot be asked to enact a law which it has been empowered to do under the delegated legislative authority. This view was reiterated in the state of J&K Vs A R Zakki case. Perusing such earlier judicial decisions, the court said, “We are of the opinion that this court cannot grant any relief to the petitioners in the writ petition. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed.”

The petition had sought a direction to the Centre for a ban on slaughter of cows, which are sacred for the Hindus. The petition had also demanded a total ban on slaughter of horses in view of some Vedic quotations, as well as a complete ban on killing of buffaloes.

The petition had said a total ban on slaughter is proposed under Article 48 of the Constitution. According to Article 48, which is a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, the state shall endeavour to take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch animals.

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