Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Ors v. The State of Bihar

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 23/04/1958

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Das, Sudhi Ranjan (Cj), Aiyyar, T.L. Venkatarama, Das, S.K., Gajendragadkar, P.B., Bose, Vivian



Petitioner: Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Ors.

Respondent: The State of Bihar

SUBJECT: The judgment revolves around the right to profess practice propagate religious believes guaranteed under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. Further, the Court laid down the foundation for essential religious practice doctrine.

FACTS: The petitioners in the instant case challenged the validity of Bihar Preservation and Improvement of Animals Act, 1955, U.P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 and the

C.P. and Berar Animal Preservation Act,1949.


The Indian Constitution

  • Article 25(1): Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
  • Article 32: Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III
  • The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
  • The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
  • Article 19(1)(g): to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
  • Article 14: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
  1. Whether the impugned legislations are in violation of Articles 19(1)(g), 25, and 14 of the Indian Constitution?

The Bihar Preservation and Improvement of Animals Act, 1955, put a total ban on the slaughter of all categories of animal, of the species of bovine cattle. The U. P. Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, put a total ban on the slaughter of cows and her progeny which included bulls, bullocks, heifers, and calves. The C. P. and Berar Animal Preservation Act,

1949, placed a total ban on the slaughter of cows, male or female calves of cow, bulls, bullocks, and heifers however the slaughter of buffaloes (male or female, adults or calves) was permitted only under a certificate granted by the proper authorities. No exception was made in any of these Acts permitting slaughter of cattle even for bona fide religious purposes. Due to the restrictions placed in the above legislations the petitioner contended that, the impugned legislations violate Articles 14,19(1)(g) and 25 of the Constitution on the following grounds:

  • The fundamental right to carry on trade under 19(1)(g) of butchers is violated
  • Sacrifice of cows during Bakrid day is an Islamic religious practice which is prohibited by these legislations
  • The classification of animals made by these legislations is arbitrary and unreasonable.

However, the respondents contended that, the impugned legislation is enacted in compliance with the Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 48 of the Constitution hence it has an overriding effect over the fundamental rights and stands valid.

Upon hearing the parties, the Court held that, a total ban on the slaughter of cows of all

ages and calves of cows was quite reasonable and valid. Also, a total ban on the slaughter of female buffaloes or breeding bulls or working bullocks (cattle as well as buffaloes), as long as they were capable of being used as milch or draught cattle, was also reasonable and valid. However, a total ban on the slaughter of female buffaloes, bulls and bullocks (cattle or buffalo) after they ceased to be capable of  yielding milk or of breeding or working as draught animals was not in the interests of the general public and was invalid. Further the Court clarified that, Article 25 of the Constitution is not violated in the present case as sacrifice of cows during Bakrid is not an obligatory practice. Also, the Court emphasised that Part III and Part IV of the Constitution must go hand in hand and not overriding each other.

CONCLUSION: Not all religious practices are obligatory only those which form the core principle of the religion becomes obligatory in nature. And only such practices are given protection under Article 25 of the Constitution.