The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Central government on two petitions challenging the controversial notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter.
A vacation Bench, comprising Justices R.K. Agrawal and S.K. Kaul, issued notice to the Centre and asked it to file its response within two weeks on the pleas. It fixed the matter for hearing on July 11.
Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha told the Bench that the intention of the notification was to have a regulatory regime on cattle trade across the country. He pointed out that the Madras High Court recently granted an interim stay on the notification.
One of the pleas said the provisions in the notification were unconstitutional as they violated the fundamental rights, including the freedom of conscience and religion and right to livelihood.
On May 26, 2017, the Environment Ministry issued the notification — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 — under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
One of the petitioners, Hyderabad-based Mohammed Abdul Faheem Qureshi had contended in is plea filed on June 7, 2017 that the notification was “against the freedom of religious practice to sacrifice the animals” and imposing a ban on slaughter of animals for food violates the right to food, privacy and personal liberty guaranteed to a citizen under the Constitution.
It also claimed that states like Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Karnataka have said that they would not implement the Centre’s ban as it would impact the livelihood of those involved in this business.
“It is also to be noted that slaughtering of animals for food, the foods and culinary made out of such animal flesh and offering sacrifice of animals is a part of cultural identity of such communities, which is protected from any legislative or executive encroachment under Article 29 of the Constitution of India which is not been subjected to any restriction by the framers of the Constitution...,” the petitioner had said.
A complete ban on sale or purchase or resale of animals would cast a huge economic burden on the farmers, cattle traders who find it difficult to feed their children today, the plea had said.
The cattle also needs to be fed as it was an offence under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to starve an animal or failure to maintain it and the notification would also “give way for cow vigilantes to harass farmers and cattle traders under the blessing of impugned regulations”, it said.
The plea had further said that the 1960 Act was not enacted by Parliament to prohibit or restrict any act of slaughter of animals for food or for religious sacrifice or the sale of animals for it.
It had also sought the apex court’s direction to declare these rules of Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Regulation Of Live Stocks, Markets) Rules and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care And Maintenance Of Case Property Animals) as ultra vires and unconstitutional.
The impugned provisions are imposing an absolute ban on slaughtering of animals in the country directly affecting the employment of the butchers and their trade, the plea claimed.
It is depriving the citizens food of their choice and is in violation of the right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution and also inconsistent and violative of section 28 of the parent Act, it said.
Will address the issue honestly: Harsh Vardhan
Reacting to the development, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said that all issues related to the cattle slaughter notification would be addressed “seriously and honestly”, adding that the government will reach out to persons, who have a “heartburn” over this issue.
“The Supreme Court has given us time till July 11, but we will file our response before it,” Mr. Vardhan said.
“We have already said that whosoever has any concern related to this issue, we (Centre) will seriously and honestly address those,” the Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the Delhi zoo.
“We will reach out to any person in India who have a heartburn on this issue,” he said.