In a recent landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that a case under the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, cannot be sustained when the sample of meat was seized by an officer who was not authorized to do so. The bench, comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, upheld a judgment of the Karnataka High Court, which had quashed an FIR under the aforementioned Act on the ground that the sample was seized by an unauthorized officer.

The case originated from a complaint filed by an individual claiming to be an Honorary Animal Welfare Officer, who alleged illegal storage of cow meat in a godown. Acting upon the complaint, an Assistant Director of the Veterinary Department seized a meat sample from the cold storage. However, the Supreme Court found this seizure to be “completely illegal,” as the Assistant Director lacked the legal authority to collect samples.

The Court emphasized that the power of an authorized person under the Act is confined to only entering and inspecting premises. However, in this case, the Assistant Director, who was an authorized person, not only collected the sample of meat but also sent it for analysis. The Supreme Court bench categorically held that the said person had no legal authority to collect the sample, and this act was deemed entirely illegal. Furthermore, the Court noted that the collection took place without giving any notice to the accused persons.

“The crux of the matter is that the sample of the meat was admittedly collected by the Assistant Director, who had no authority in law to collect the sample. He did not collect the sample after notice to the first to third respondents. Thus, the act of collection of the sample by the Assistant Director was completely illegal,” the bench stated in its judgment.

Before the Supreme Court, the appellant argued that the sample collected from the cold storage was sent for DNA testing, which revealed that the meat was indeed from a cow. However, the Court drew attention to the fact that the sample was collected not by a police officer but by the Assistant Director. The Court noted that even if it assumed that the Assistant Director was the authorized person under the Act, he had no power to seize any meat sample.

Considering that the sample was obtained illegally before sending it for analysis, the Court held that the entire case of the prosecution was based on an unauthorized and illegally collected sample of the meat. Therefore, the High Court was right in interfering by quashing the First Information Report.

In view of this, the Supreme Court affirmed the view taken by the High Court and dismissed the appeal. This ruling serves as a significant precedent, highlighting the importance of adhering to legal procedures and upholding the rule of law in law enforcement activities. It underscores the judiciary’s role in safeguarding individual rights and ensuring procedural fairness in criminal proceedings.

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