Cattle traders move Supreme Court against rules that allow seizure, forfeiture of livestock

Representational image.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

An association of cattle traders and transporters has approached the Supreme Court against rules notified in 2017, which is being used as a tool to seize and forfeit their cattle.

A Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde ordered the government to respond to a petition by the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association, represented by advocate Sanobar Ali Qureshi, on threats faced by them. They said they were being forcibly deprived of their cattle, which are then sent to gaushalas.

The traders told the court on Tuesday that the seizure and forfeiture of their livestock, a means of livelihood for many families, was happening on the strength of the 2017 rules against animal cruelty and cattle slaughter. 

Two years ago, the Centre had promised the top court that it would amend and re-notify these rules. Its notification had led to public furore. But nothing had been done so far, and the rules were being employed to seize and forfeit cattle from their rightful owners, the association said.

The rules' existence had emboldened “anti-social elements” to take matters into their own hands and loot cattle traders. It had become a cause for polarisation of society.

“It is pertinent to mention that these frequent lootings are also threatening the rule of law and generally emboldening groups of persons to take the law into their own hands. Moreover, these incidents are acting as triggers for communal polarisation of society, and if not halted effectively and immediately, will have disastrous consequences on the social fabric of the country,” the association said.

The law under question is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 notified on May 23, 2017. The rules were framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The 2017 rules allow a magistrate to forfeit the cattle of an owner facing trial under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The animals are then sent to infirmaries, gaushalas, pinjarapole, etc. The authorities can further give such animals for “adoption”. In short, a farmer or a traders loses his cattle even before he is adjudged guilty of cruelty under the 1960 Act.

The association said the 2017 rules have travelled beyond the boundaries of the 1960 Act.

Under Section 29 of the Act, private cattle can be forfeited only after the owner is convicted and had faced a previous conviction. The other situations include the probability of further cruelty from the owner if the cattle is left with him.

The Act says that an animal should be admitted to a shelter, etc., only if it is injured and requires treatment. The animal has to be returned to the owner after treatment.

Besides, Section 38A of the PCA Act required any rule made under the 1960 Act to be laid before the Parliament. This has not been done with the 2017 Rules.

"Rules introduce substantive rights and obligations. None of these were envisaged by the parent Act," the petition said.

“It is pertinent to note that when The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animal (Regulation Of Live Stocks, Markets) Rules, 2017 and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care Maintenance of Case Property animals) Rules, 2017 were first challenged before the Supreme Court, the Union of India had made a statement the government was in the process of reconsidering the rules and amended rules would be re-notified. The matter was thus disposed of by the Supreme Court... Thereafter, there has been no notification of any amended rules,” the petition said. 

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 4:01:59 AM |

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