The Allahabad High Court on Monday said it was worried about the “frequent misuse” of the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, and said the law was being used to implicate innocent persons in the state, Live Law reported. The court noted that in several instances, the meat recovered by authorities is presumed to be beef without any analysis or confirmation.

A single judge bench of Justice Siddharth made the observations while hearing a plea by Rahmuddin, who was accused of cow slaughter and sale under various sections of the Act. He has been in jail since August 5, according to NDTV.

During the hearing, the bench was informed that the accused had been in jail for over a month but had no specific allegations against his name in the first information report filed by the local police. The plea added that Rahmuddin was not arrested from the spot where the alleged cow slaughter took place.

The High Court granted bail to Rahmuddin and observed that the “Act is being misused against innocent persons”. “Whenever any meat is recovered, it is normally shown as cow meat [beef] without getting it examined or analysed by the forensic laboratory,” it said. “In most of the cases, meat is not sent for analysis.”

Justice Siddharth added that in several cases, the accused continue to languish in jail for an offence “that may not have been committed at all”.

The court also questioned the treatment given to cows by their owners, pointing out that many are often left to fend for themselves when they are not being milked. It noted that even cow shelters do not accept non-milching cows or old cows, who are then deserted and left to “wander the roads”.

These animals then end up drinking sewage water from drains and eating garbage and plastic, while the stray cows that are recovered [by the state] do not have proper documentation and “one does not know where the cows go after”, the court continued.

“Moreover, cows and cattle on the road are menace to the traffic and number of deaths have been reported due to them. In the rural areas cattle owners who are unable to feed their livestock, abandon them. They cannot be transported outside the state for fear of locals and police. There are no pastures now. Thus, these animals wander here and there destroying the crops.”   

— The Allahabad High Court

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The High Court added that whether cows are on roads or on fields their abandonment “adversely affects the society in a big way”. It said there was an urgent need to find a way of protecting the animal, if the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act was to be implemented in “letter and spirit”.

The Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 was implemented in the state on January 6, 1956. The Act was amended in 1958, 1961, 1979 and 2002.

Chief Minister Adityanath has been accused of launching a crackdown on cow slaughter and small-scale beef trade – run largely by Muslims and Dalits – as part of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. In June, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved an ordinance increasing the penalty for cow slaughter to up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

The central government had banned cow slaughter in May, 2017 – purportedly to preserve and improve indigenous breeds, and prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle. Cow slaughter is now prohibited everywhere in India except in Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.