The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging its May 25 notification, banning sale and purchase of cows and buffaloes at animal markets for slaughter.
"Issue notice. File response within two weeks", the bench said posting the matter for further hearing on July 11.
The judges however refused to stay the notification.
Making a brief submission, the Centre said too much was being read into the notification while it was only an attempt to bring into existence some kind of regime regarding cattle trade.
A vacation bench of the court comprising of Justice R K Agrawal and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was hearing a plea filed by a Hyderabad-based lawyer Fahim Qureshi, president of the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee. He termed the Centre's order as "discriminatory" and "unconstitutional" as it prevented cattle traders from earning their livelihood.
The notification has already triggered widespread protests.
Besides arguing, that the decision will hit poor farmers and squeeze supplies to the country's Rs 1 lakh-crore meat industry, the petition also accused the government of pushing a beef ban through the back door in keeping with the BJP's Hindutva agenda.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, allows 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.
"Slaughtering of animals for food and sacrifice was part of the cultural identity of certain communities and was protected by law", Qureshi argued.
The lawyer also said that the restrictions placed by the new rules contravene the very law - Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 - under which it has been notified.
It said, the Act further recognises slaughter for food. Section 11 of the Act does not categorise slaughter of animals for food as cruelty. It makes a specific exemption for "destruction of any animal as food for mankind unless such destruction or preparation was accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering."