Madras High Court stays Centre’s notification on sale of cattle for slaughter

A woman worships a cow as Indian Hindus offer prayers to the River Ganges, holy to them during the Ganga Dussehra festival in Allahabad, India, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Allahabad on the confluence of rivers the Ganges and the Yamuna is one of Hinduism’s holiest centers. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
A woman worships a cow as Indian Hindus offer prayers to the River Ganges, holy to them during the Ganga Dussehra festival in Allahabad, India, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Allahabad on the confluence of rivers the Ganges and the Yamuna is one of Hinduism’s holiest centers. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has granted an interim stay on the Centre’s notification on the ban of the sale of cattle for slaughter.

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court stayed the notification for four weeks and has directed the state and central government to reply in 4 weeks
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed the operation of statutory rules notified by the Central government on May 23 banning the sale and purchase of of cattle for slaughter in animal markets.
The court passed the order on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition that challenged the constitutional validity of Rules 22(b)(iii) and 22(e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulations of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017 notified by the Centre.
Earlier in the day, a Division Bench of Justices M.V. Muralidaran and C.V. Karthikeyan agreed to hear the case in the afternoon after acceding to the request of senior counsel M. Ajmal Khan for an urgent hearing. It also directed Central Government Standing Counsel KR. Laxman to ensure the presence of Assistant Solicitor General G.R. Swaminathan during the hearing at 2.15 p.m.
S. Selvagomathy (45), an activist-cum-lawyer based in Madurai, had filed the PIL petition on the grounds that the statutory rules were repugnant to the parent Act itself since Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960 specifically states that it shall not be an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.

Claiming that the PCA Act permits slaughter of animals as well as sale of animals for slaughter, the petitioner said that the Centre had no authority to extend its rule making power, under the enactment, to the extent of banning sale of animals in a market for the purpose of slaughter.
She contended that the new rules offend the right to freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 25 and the protection of interests of minorities under Article 29 of the Constitution. She said slaughtering animals for food and offering sacrifice in religious places was a part and parcel of the cultural identity of most of the communities in the country.

“No person shall bring cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle – stating the name and address of the owner of the cattle, with a copy of the photo identification proof. Giving details of the identification of the cattle and stating that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter,” the notification from the Environment Ministry had said.

The move had not gone down well with many state governments in the country, with Kerala, West Bengal and Karnataka questioning the notification. Addressing a press conference on Monday, Mamata Banerjee termed the notification “unconstitutional and discriminatory”.

“What people eat is their right, their freedom. There is a deliberate attempt to take over state power. This is unethical. In a federal structure, the state govt has its own jurisdiction,” Mamata said. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the residents of his state do not need a lesson on food habits from New Delhi or Nagpur, stating that Keralites have been following a traditional food habit, which is healthy and nutritious, and no one can change it.

After widespread criticism of the Centre’s notification banning the sale of cattle at animal markets, the Environment  Ministry could be looking at redefining the draft on the ban on cow slaughters, sources told on Monday.The petitioner stated that prohibiting the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets amounted to interfering with the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The statutory rules banning sale of cattle for slaughter amounted to excessive restriction and not reasonable restriction imposed on the right to trade.
Ms. Selvagomathy said that farmers, traders involved in sale of cattle, slaughter houseowners and their employees would be deprived of their livelihood as the rules defined the term ‘animal market’ to be a market place or sale yard or any other premises or place to which animals were brought from other places and exposed for sale or auction.

The definition also included any lairage adjoining a market or a slaughterhouse and used in connection with it and any place adjoining a market used as a parking area by visitors to the market for parking vehicles and includes animal fair and cattle pound where animals were offered or displayed for sale or auction.

Further the rules defined the term ‘cattle’ to mean a bovine animal, including bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves and camels. “Therefore, by the impugned regulations, a complete ban has been imposed on the trade of sale or purchase of animals defined as cattle and it is in violation of the right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution,” she asserted.

The petitioner went on to state: “The right to choice of food [non vegetarian or vegetarian] is a part of the right to personal liberty, conscience and privacy. By imposing a ban on slaughter of animals for food, the citizens with a choice to eat the flesh of such animals would be deprived of such food and it violates the right to food, privacy and personal liberty.”

Referring to the seventh schedule to the Constitution, the petitioner said that issues concerning markets, fairs and preservation or protection and improvement of livestock fall within entry 28 and 15 of the State list and thus only the State legislature and not the Centre was empowered to enact laws and frame statutory rules on those subjects.

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