The Uttarakhand High Court has said it will act as the legal guardian of cows in the state, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday.

“The court by invoking the ‘parens patriae’ [parent of the country] doctrine issues mandatory directions…in the welfare of the cows and other stray cattle,” Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari said. The doctrine allows courts to act as guardians of those who are unable to take care of themselves. The court delivered the order on Friday but the written order was issued on Monday.

The High Court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a Haridwar-based farmer, Alim Ali, who claimed that stray cattle were being slaughtered and waste from a slaughterhouse was flowing into water bodies.

The court set up a cow shelter for a group of 25 villages and banned the slaughter and export “for the purpose of slaughter” of “any cow, bull, bullock, heifer or calf”. It also banned the sale of beef and beef products across the state, The Indian Express reported. The High Court directed all circle officers “to patrol rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure that no cow is slaughtered”.

The slaughter of cows, bulls and calves is already banned in the state under the Uttarakhand Protection of Cow Progeny Act, which provides a jail term of up to 10 years or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.

The judges also asked the state to register cases against the owners of cattle found abandoned in public places. They also directed the state government to set up a special squad to protect the animals in Kumaon and Garhwal regions. The squad will be headed by an officer not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police and will also have a veterinary doctor as its member.

On July 4, the High Court declared the animal kingdom, including avian and aquatic animals, a legal entity. Animals have corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person, it had ruled.