The Karnataka government on Thursday deferred the enactment of its controversial anti-cow slaughter bill until the next legislature, as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party did not have the majority in the Legislative Council, reported The Indian Express.

The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill (2020) was passed in the state Assembly on December 9 without a debate. The Opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) members staged a walked out, saying that the Speaker did not give them adequate time to air their views.

The ordinance envisages a ban on all forms of cattle slaughter and stringent punishment to those who indulge in smuggling, illegal transportation, atrocities on cows and slaughtering them. It provides for a jail term of three to seven years and (or) a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.

After being passed in the Assembly, the bill was listed on the Legislative Council’s agenda on Thursday. But it was deferred at the final moment, before the winter session was adjourned sine die.

The government was reportedly apprehensive that it may get defeated by the combined weight of the Opposition. The Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) together have 42 members in the Legislative Council, at 28 and 14, respectively. The BJP has 31 MLCs in the 75-member House. There is an Independent member and from the Chairperson, who happens to be a Congress member.

“There are some technical reasons for deferring the move to table the bill – there are fears that it may get referred to a standing committee, or get defeated, which would lead to a delay in enacting the law,” an unidentified official told the newspaper. “It has been decided to place it in the Council at a more opportune time.”

This means the BS Yediyurappa-led government’s strategy to get the bill enacted as a law clinches on the BJP’s efforts to dislodge the Chairperson of the Legislative Council, who is a Congress member. The BJP will also have to try and win the support of JD(S) to get the bill passed in the Legislative Council.

Opposition opposes bill

Earlier in the day, JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said his party was not in favour of the anti-cow slaughter ordinance in its present format as it was likely to cause economic difficulties for the cattle and dairy industry of the state.

Kumarswamy said the bill imposes unviable conditions on farmers, which will cause an economic burden on them. “As a consequence of the law, farmers may stop rearing cattle and this will affect milk production, on which many families are dependent for livelihood.” the JD(S) leader added. “Even though the new law is meant to prevent cattle slaughter, it will lead to harassment of farmers, who will have to run from pillar to post to rear.”

He said the bill instills fear that the provision to allow police and other officials to inspect premises “may lead to harassment and fear psychosis”. The former chief minister also criticised the government for passing the bill in “a tearing hurry”.

The Congress, which also thinks the new bill will hurt the interests of farmers, accused the BJP of trying to polarise communities by targeting beef and its consumers, NDTV reported.

“The entire bill is against farmers,” Congress state unit chief DK Shivakumar said. “They are trying to polarise [people]. The farming community, which has been breeding cattle, has been affected. They did not discuss [the bill].”

Shivakumar added that the Bharatiya Janata Party hurriedly passed the ordinance ahead of the local body elections as they were “trying to saffronise things”.