Restrictions placed by the new rules of the Environment Ministry on sale of cattle in a livestock market for purposes of slaughter and religious animal sacrifices contravene the very law — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 — under which it has been notified.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules of 2017 permit the sale of cattle in markets only to verified “agriculturists”, who have to give an undertaking to the authorities that cattle will not be sold or slaughtered for meat. Nor shall the animal be used for sacrifices. The animal will be used only for farming.
The rules take away the rights of the owner to even sell the carcass of an animal dying of “natural causes” in the market. The rules prescribe that the carcass will be incinerated and not be sold or flayed for leather.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, enacted on December 26, 1960, however, does not impose any such restriction. It does not ban a cattle owner to sell the carcass of his animals for leather. The legislative intent of the 1960 Act is to “prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals”. In fact, the very proof that neither slaughter nor sale for that purpose is banned by the Act is found in Section 9 (e) of the statute. One of the functions of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) under the Act is to “advise the government or any local authority or other person in the design of slaughter-houses or the maintenance of slaughter houses or in connection with slaughter of animals so that unnecessary pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is eliminated in the pre-slaughter stages as far as possible, and animals are killed; wherever necessary, in as humane a manner as possible.”
Slaughter for food
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.”
When a public interest litigation (PIL) petition came up for hearing before the Supreme Court to ban animal sacrifices for religious purposes, the court had specifically noted how Section 28 of the Act mandates that “nothing contained in this Act (1960 Act) shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.”
The restriction on trade of cattle or carcasses in livestock markets will have to be tested on the touchstone of the fundamental right to occupation, trade or business under Article 19 (1) (g) to see whether it is “reasonable.” Though Section 38 of the 1960 Act confers the Centre the power to make rules, several judicial precedents hold that this rule-making power does not allow going “beyond the scope of enabling Act or which is inconsistent therewith or repugnant.” Rules cannot be used to bring within its purview a subject — in this case, restriction on sale of cattle for slaughter or animal sacrifices —that has been specifically excluded by the statute.