Refer to this article,

... 14 Years Of Jail For Killing A Cow, 2 Years For Killing A Human Being ...

What is the source of this law?

Is this law derived from British Common Law?

If YES, does Britain still have such law?

  • Is 14 years for premeditated one, or accidental one? (the 2 years was for negligent driver - much as I personally hate DUI drivers, the law unfortunately treats them extremely lightly in most Western countries, India's no exception here)
    – user0306
    Jul 17, 2017 at 16:06
  • What is the question? An Indian rule about humans is quoted in the article. I'm pretty sure killing cows is not specially protected in the UK, but there most certainly are rules against killing people in England (Scots possibly excepted in some cases) and they come in various degrees with scaling punishments. @user4012 In what sense is India Western?
    – user4460
    Jul 17, 2017 at 16:18
  • @notstoreboughtdirt - I'm not familiar with laws outside Western countries, thus the qualification in my comment.
    – user0306
    Jul 17, 2017 at 16:23
  • 1
    This would appear to be a question of Law.
    – James K
    Jul 17, 2017 at 17:33
  • …or Skeptics.SE
    – bytebuster
    Jul 17, 2017 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


My review of the national Indian Penal Code finds that the usual sentence for killing someone else's cow under Section 429 is up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine.

But, the Article 48 of the Constitution of India requires states to enact state specific laws barring cattle slaughter, in general, as well, in a nod to the plurality Hindu religion at the time the constitution was adopted (probably a majority now). Despite this mandate the law of cattle slaughter is not uniform and not all states even implement a criminal penalty. The possible sentence for a violation of a state cattle slaughter prohibition varies greatly among the 32 states of India, with several states having no state level criminal offense and instead only civil public health regulations, while the most severe punishment, in the state of Gujarat, is 14 years in prison. In most states it is punishable by up to 6 months in jail to a few years in prison.

This is not derived from British Common Law and slaughtering a cow, per se, is not a common law crime (or a statutory crime in Britain), although, of course it is a British common law crime to intentionally damage someone else's property including cows. Cruelty to animals was only made a statutory crime in Britain in 1911 and was not a common law crime.

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code authorizes the death penalty or life in prison for the Indian equivalent of first degree murder.


The article appears to follow an ancient and disreputable tradition; researching one instance where a crime was lightly punished (but ignoring the reasons), finding another where an apparently more trivial crime was heavily punished (again ignoring the reasoning), and claiming that the law punishes the latter more heavily than the former. As long as people are readier to be outraged than to think, this will make money for muckrakers.

The legal answer (since this has been transferred to Law.SE) is that common law by definition does not lay down specific penalties for offences. It is possible that Indian common law, being heavily influenced by Hinduism, dictates that killing a cow is a crime outside the Western code, in which it may be a tort but is not a crime unless it involves cruelty. Again by definition, this common law understanding would have nothing to do with the British (or any other) authorities.


The killing of cows is a highly political subject in India, and 14 years in jail is by far not the highest possible sentence: There have been multiple reports of people having been killed by a mob because they were suspected of killing cows, which are sacred to the Hindu religion. There have been riots about rumours that some muslims were secretly killing cows.

I found an article from 2012 about a 7 year jail sentence for killing cows. I didn't find a higher number, except lots of links to the quoted case, but obviously in four years the sentence could be increased.

I think sentences that are considered unusually high compared to the actual crime will happen when a society really, really doesn't want you to commit a certain type of crime. For example, after some recent cases the UK government now wants to introduce life sentences for criminals using acid to attack others (and I don't think they will have much opposition), much higher than a knife or gun attack.

So in India the sentence will be very high, because lots of people get really upset if you kill a cow, up to the point of lynch justice or riots, so a very high sentence to stop people from doing it sounds logical, because of the consequences. Some people also think this punishment is supposed to be used to suppress muslims in the country.

@anonymous: What bias? I was lucky enough to have grown up in a place where it is acknowledged that people are different. It's natural to me to understand that Hindus will see some things different than I do. And that killing a cow to them is incredibly offensive and will lead to a very strong reaction.

  • flawed reasoning from this sentence So in India, the sentence will be very high, because lots of people get really upset if you kill a cow, up to the point of lynch justice or riots, so a very high sentence to stop people from doing it sounds logical, because of the consequences. --- then why not give 14years' sentences to people who are involved in lynching, and mob-justice? This type of reasoning shows a complete bias towards a specific group of people.
    – user10806
    Jul 18, 2017 at 11:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .