Contributing to the high-decibel debate over cattle slaughter, the Rajasthan High Court said, on Wednesday, that the cow should be declared a national animal.
The HC also recommended to the central government that it should increase the current punishment of three years imprisonment for cow slaughter to life imprisonment.
"Keeping in mind Articles 48 and 51A(g) of the Constitution and to provide legal entity for their proper protection and conservation of cow, it is expected from the government that cow is declared a national animal," Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma said in a 145-page order.
The court made these recommendations while hearing a case relating to the Hingoniya Gaushala of Jaipur.
The court said that India was a predominantly agriculture-based country where animal husbandry played an important role.
The judge appointed the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Rajasthan in loco parentis (custodians) for the protection and conservation of cows.
These officials will work for the protection and conservation of cows and to declare cow a national animal, the court said.
The Rajasthan High Courtâ€™s suggestions come at a time when the Centre's recent notification regarding stringent rules for cattle trade and slaughter, and the subsequent beef fests held in protest in various places, have dominated headlines.
There have been conflicting observations and orders from other High Courts in the days since the Centreâ€™s notification was released. On Tuesday, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had stayed the new cattle trade rules for a period of four weeks, while observing that it was an individualâ€™s right to choose his or her own food.
The HC, hearing a PIL filed by a Madurai-based lawyer and activist, had also sought a response from the state and central governments on the matter in four weeksâ€™ time.
However, a PIL in the Kerala HC regarding the new cattle trade rules was withdrawn after the court declared that it did not stand as the rules did not ban cattle slaughter.
"The PIL does not stand, since the Centre's regulation only bans sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets. It has not banned cattle slaughter at all. Can't the sale and slaughtering be done at home or other places? There is no breach of citizens' rights here,â€ť the court reportedly remarked.
Incidentally, the Kerala state government, along with West Bengal, has taken strong exception to the new rules, with the two Chief Ministers hitting out at the Centre, calling the move undemocratic and against the federal structure of the country.
Parties in Tamil Nadu have also spoken against it.
In Kerala, protests in the form of beef festivals were held across the state on Sunday. On the same day, IIT Madras students also held a similar event.
Students in Madras University are also likely to hold a beef festival on Wednesday.