Assam court’s order on cattle found to have “crept into blatant illegality”

Release of animals to the owner “cannot be considered” during pendency of trial, says Gauhati High Court

The Gauhati High Court has said an order pertaining to seized cattle by the court of a sub-divisional judicial magistrate in north-eastern Assam’s Biswanath district had “crept into blatant illegality”.

Disposing of a petition by Dhyan Foundation, an NGO tasked with rescuing cows from cattle smugglers in Assam since November 2019, the GHC found that the local court’s order allowing possession of 26 of 116 seized cattle to one Md. Babul Hussain “de hors the provision” of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

(De hors means “out of agreement” or “foreign to” something in discussion.)

“Such an order of the learned court… crept into blatant illegality,” High Court Judge Rumi Kumari Phukan observed, adding that the release of the animals to the owner “cannot be considered” during the pendency of the trial.

The High Court also observed that the Biswanath court had in a July 20 order granted interim custody of the seized cattle to the NGO but had allowed custody of 26 cows to Mr. Hussain through an order on September 4 with the “condition for making payment to the petitioner-foundation towards the cost of maintenance of the cows”.

The High Court in its order on September 23 said the (Biswanath) court “cannot pass such subsequent orders, which amounts to review of its own order(s), that too without giving any opportunity to the earlier zimmadar [NGO]) of being heard”.

The personnel of the Gingia police station in Biswanath district had on July 15 seized 118 cattle that were being transported from Gohpur to Biswanath Chariali town in four tarpaulin-covered trucks. A case was registered after the police booked the drivers and helpers for illegal trafficking of animals.

A local court granted interim custody of 116 cattle — two cows had died during the official process — to Dhyan Foundation on the basis of a formal letter issued by the Deputy Commissioner concerned. The cattle were kept in its gaushala (cow shelter) at Halem in the district.

A spokesperson of the NGO said it has rehabilitated more than 3,500 cattle rescued by the Border Security Force from smugglers along the India-Bangladesh border. Apart from the one at Halem, it runs cow shelters in Goalpara and Dhubri, both in western Assam.

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