The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet has cleared an amendment to the anti-cow slaughter law in a bid to curb cow vigilantism, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.

The Congress government in the state led by Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday approved a proposal to jail cow vigilantes guilty of violence for six months to three years, and impose a fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000. At present, offences related to cow vigilantism are dealt under the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Additional Chief Secretary (Animal Husbandry) Manoj Shrivastava told The Indian Express that punishment under the Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam, 2004, will increase to a minimum of one year and maximum five years if a mob is involved in cow vigilantism. In case of repeat offenders, the jail term will be doubled.

“The amendment has been made keeping in mind the Supreme Court order...telling states to act tough on cow vigilantism,” the Hindustan Times quoted Shrivastava as saying. In July 2018, the Supreme Court had asked Parliament to consider creating a new penal provision to deal with incidents of vigilantism, saying mobocracy cannot be allowed in society.

The amendment seeks to punish those who abet cow vigilantism with a jail term of one to three years. People who damage property of those charged under the anti-cow slaughter law will also be punished.

Shrivastava said cattle transporters would now have to take permission from a sub-divisional magistrate. State Animal Husbandry Minister Lakhan Singh Yadav said most cattle transporters do not carry documents to show “whether the cow being transported is going for slaughter or for sale, and often end up being harassed or bashed up by gau rakshaks”. “The magistrate’s permission will be a legal paper that should satisfy the gau rakshaks,” Yadav added.

On May 24, three people were attacked in the state’s Seoni district by cow vigilantes on the suspicion that they were carrying beef. The police arrested Shubam Baghel, who identified himself as the Seoni district president of Hindutva organisation Shri Ram Sena, and his four accomplices. The victims were also arrested for allegedly carrying beef.