Article 48 of the Indian Constitution enshrined in Part IV – Directive Principles of State Policy, directs the State to adopt aggressive steps for the growth and organization of animal husbandry and agriculture. Article 48, which is based on the concept of sustainable development and rural welfare, emphasizes the State’s obligation to encourage animal husbandry, safeguard livestock, and strive for a harmonic balance between agricultural interests and ecological protection. It being an important part of India’s agricultural policy, is critical in guiding the government toward promoting a healthy agricultural sector and conserving the nation’s ecological legacy.

What does Article 48 states ?

Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry

  • 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
Analysis of Article 48

Promotion of Modern and Scientific Agriculture:

Agriculture has long been the backbone of India’s economy and survival, and the article recognizes the necessity for technical improvements and interventions to boost production and efficiency.
The government aims to make agriculture more profitable and sustainable by providing farmers with new techniques, infrastructure, and expertise.

Conservation of Cattle Breeds:

Cattle have long held cultural and economic significance in India. They play an integral role in agricultural activities, providing milk and being used for plowing fields and transportation.
Article 48 aims to protect cattle breeds’ diversity and their continued contribution to India’s agrarian way of life.

Prohibition of Slaughter:

One of the most contentious features of Article 48 is its request to outlaw the killing of cows and calves. Cows are considered sacrosanct by a large segment of the Indian people due to religious and cultural beliefs. The order does not expressly prohibit slaughter but encourages the state to take actions to avoid indiscriminate killing of these creatures and promote their protection.

Contributions to Sustainable Development:

Article 48 has made a substantial contribution to India’s long-term growth. It prompted the government to invest in livestock breed improvement, promote animal husbandry for revenue, and encourage eco-friendly and scientific agricultural techniques. Furthermore, it raised awareness of animal welfare and conservation, leading to the formation of several animal welfare groups and projects.

Initiatives regarding Article 48
1. Rashtriya Gokul Mission Launched by the Government of India in 2014, the Rashtriya Gokul Mission aims to conserve and develop indigenous cattle breeds. It focuses on setting up Gokul Grams (cattle villages) to maintain and improve the genetic stock of indigenous cows and bulls.
2. National Livestock Mission (NLM)NLM, launched in 2014, is another significant initiative that aims to promote sustainable development of the livestock sector. It focuses on improving animal husbandry practices, enhancing livestock productivity, and providing support for breed improvement and breed conservation.
3. Rashtriya Kamdhenu AayogThe Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog, established in 2019, works towards the sustainable development and welfare of cows in India. It focuses on promoting scientific research and innovations in animal husbandry, as well as ensuring the welfare of cattle.
4. Cattle Fairs and ExhibitionsVarious state governments organize cattle fairs and exhibitions to showcase and promote indigenous cattle breeds. These events provide a platform for breeders and farmers to exchange knowledge and expertise, contributing to the conservation and improvement of cattle breeds.
5. Ban on Cow SlaughterSeveral states in India have implemented laws prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves. These bans are in line with the spirit of Article 48 and aim to protect the cultural and religious sentiments associated with cows.
6. National Bovine Breeding ProgrammeThe National Bovine Breeding Programme focuses on the genetic improvement of cattle breeds through selective breeding and artificial insemination. It aims to increase the productivity and quality of milk and draught animals.
7. Cattle Insurance SchemesSome states have introduced cattle insurance schemes to provide financial protection to farmers in case of cattle loss due to natural calamities or accidents. These schemes encourage farmers to invest in animal husbandry and safeguard their livestock.
Landmark judgements regarding Article 48

Abdul Hakim Qureshi v. State of Bihar (1961) 

  • In this case, the petitioner alleged that by implementing a legislation prohibiting cow slaughter in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, the state governments are violating Muslims’ right to freedom of religion, as guaranteed by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution .
  • According to the petitioner, cows can be sacrificed on Muslim holy days such as Bakr-id. The Supreme Court then examined Hidaya and the Quran, and found that neither of them mandates cow sacrifice.
  • Rather than a cow, a camel or goat can be sacrificed. Therefore, the state governments’ complete prohibition on cow slaughter does not violate people’s freedom to practice their faith.

State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab (2005)

  • The verdict in Mohd Hanif Qureshi v State of Bihar was overturned in Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab v State of Gujarat (2005).
  • According to the Supreme Court, Article 48 of the Constitution specifically emphasizes the protection of cows against slaughter.
  • Having assisted humans from time immemorial, cattle must be treated with care even when they are no longer helpful.
  • According to the Court, a combined reading of Articles 51A and 48 authorizes humane care for animals. Animals have their own set of basic rights.



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