Madurai Bench of the High Court of Madras on Tuesday granted a four weeks stay on the operation of the recently notified Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017.
The new Rules, notified under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, ban the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets across India, and allow only farmland owners to trade at animal markets. The notification covers bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves, as well as the camel trade. They also require anyone purchasing cattle to provide an undertaking that the animals are bought for agricultural purposes and not slaughter.
The Petition, filed by Ms. S. Selvagomathy, an activist-cum-lawyer based in Madurai, was granted an urgent hearing by the Bench, on request of Senior Counsel M. Ajmal Khan. The Bench, comprising Justice M.V. Muralidaran and Justice C.V. Karthikeyan has now directed the Centre and the State Governments to reply within a period of four weeks.
Ms. Selvagomathy challenges the Rules on the ground that they are repugnant to the parent Act, as Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act specifically excludes killing of any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community. She further contends that the new Rules offend the Right to Freedom of Religion under Articles 25 and 29 of the Indian Constitution. The Rules have also been challenged on the ground that they impinge upon the State’s legislative domain.
The Petition avers 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, trade or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g) of the Indian Constitution.
“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,” the Petition further states.