Amidst the dangerous communally violent scenario unleashed in several parts of India subsequent to the recent ban imposed by the Centre on the sale of cattle for slaughter; the refusal by many States to implement the same; and protests arising widely from the meat trade sectors of all parts of the Country, the supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the stay imposed by the Madras High Court on the Circular and declared that it extends to the whole of India.
- Chief Justice JS Khehar
- Justice D Y Chandrachud
Date: 11th July 2017
Matter: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017 released by the MoEFCC on 23rd May 2017
Brief Facts: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) recently issued Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 covering bulls, cows, buffaloes, calves, camel, steers, etc. and banning the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets across India. The combined effect of the Rules allowed only farmland owners to trade in the animal market, and required that anyone purchasing the animals had to undertake that the animals were bought for agricultural purposes and not slaughter. The documentation and compliance procedures were made manifold under the Rules, like furnishing identity proofs, farmland ownership proof, constitution of a District Animal Market Monitoring Committee, etc. The move was widely met by protests from the public, including meat traders, politicians, State Govts, lawyers, and activists terming the move as detrimental to the livelihood of meat traders and imposing an unfair restriction on the eating habits of people; but the major criticism was that it was indeed an attempt to appease the Hindutva cattle-worship sentiments by camouflaging it in the garb of animal protection.
Decision: The Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) (Indian Kanoon) had on 30th May 2017 granted a four-week stay on the Rules in a petition filed by Ms. S. Selvagomathy, an activist-cum-lawyer, on the grounds that the prohibition on sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets amounts to interfering with the right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation[i]. However, in a similar matter before the Kerala High Court where a group of petitions challenging certain provisions of the impugned Rules was decided on the contrary, and the Court refused to stay the Rules.
The Supreme Court was faced with four petitions challenging the Notification, and the Centre proceeded to submit no counter against the Madras High Court Order and instead went on to state that amends will be made to the Rules which will in turn be re-notified later. The Ministry is now set to seek suggestions and objections to the Notification before drafting and implementing the required amends in the same. The Supreme Court disposed of the Petitions extending the stay imposed by the Madras HC to the whole of India, meaning that the Rules now cannot be implemented and stand powerless until the emended Notification is published by the MoEFCC.
Relevant Portions of the Judgment:
“….as and when fresh notification is issued sufficient time shall be granted by government for implementation of the notified amendments so that till the rules are implemented there is sufficient time for parties to assail the same…”
“…Livelihoods of people cannot be subjected to uncertainties…”
- Constitution of India, Art. 19 (1) (g), 25 and 29
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017
[i] Article 19(1) (g), Indian Constitution