The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle

Debate Summary

New Article, Introduced in Constituent Assembly, November 1948

'38-A. The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breeds of cattle and prohibit the slaughter of cow and other useful cattle, specially milch and draught cattle and their young stock'.

Draft Article 38-A was not part of the Draft Constitution 1948 – an Assembly member introduced it on 24 November 1948. It directed the State to develop the agricultural and animal husbandry sectors of the economy and to ensure that certain types of cattle were not slaughtered.

The Assembly was polarised on religious lines: most Hindu members supported the provision and most Muslim members were reluctant.

Two types of arguments were mobilised to support the Draft Article: religious and economic. Members stated that the cow, and cattle in general, held a special status in Hindu religion and culture. The slaughter of these animals was akin to attacking the Hindu religion. Further, they argued that cattle played a key role in the Indian economy as it was the source of economically valuable goods like manure and milk.

The Draft Article directed the prohibition of the slaughter of ‘useful’ cattle. Some members argued that even non-useful cattle should be protected and rejected the distinction between ‘useful’ and ‘non-useful’ cattle.

Muslim members were suspicious of the economic rationales that were put forward in support of the Draft Article; They accused members of hiding the true rationale which was to protect Hindu religious sentiment.

Further, one Muslim member pointed out there was a large population of dead-weight cattle that was a drain on the economy. He implied that the economically reasonable thing to do with these cattle would be to slaughter them.

At the end of the debate, the Draft Article was adopted by the Assembly. Many members of the Assembly had previously wanted a cow slaughter type article to be included in the legally enforceable fundamental rights section. The Assembly's decision to adopt the Article but place it in the legally unenforceable Directive Principles seems to have been a compromise.

The Draft Article came up for discussion again on 14th November 1949. A member said the Article in the revised constitution was different from what was adopted by the Assembly on 24th November 1948.

The member, moving an amendment, accused the Drafting Committee of changing and watering down the Article without the sanction of the Assembly. After another brief round of debate and discussion, the Assembly accepted the amendment and settled on a final version that is part of the Constitution of India, 1950.