SC to hear plea on new cattle notification on June 15

Published - June 07, 2017 03:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a petition challenging the Centre’s new notification restricting sale of cattle in livestock markets for the purpose of slaughter and religious animal sacrifices.

A Vacation Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Deepak Gupta directed the plea to be listed in June 15 after an urgent mentioning by a Hyderabad organisation.

One of the contentions raised by the plea is that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, under which the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules 2017 was notified, does not restrict slaughter of animals for the purpose of religious animal sacrifices.

The new rules mandate that cattle should be sold only to “agriculturists”, only for farming purposes and not for slaughter or sacrifice.

Notified by the Environment Ministry on May 23, the rules define ‘cattle’ to include bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers, calves and even camels.

It envisages Animal Market Monitoring Committees to be formed at district levels to organise and control local livestock markets across the country. These committees, headed by the district collector will be in charge of organising animal markets wherever required. The existing ones will have to, within the next three months, register themselves with the committee or face extinction.

These monitoring committees, and their subordinate Animal Market Committees which will run the markets, will ensure that cattle is sold only for agricultural purposes.

Rule 22 prescribes that the owner or his designated agent who brings cattle to be sold or auctioned at the market has to give a written declaration, accompanied by identity and residential proofs, that the cattle is not meant to be sold for slaughter. Once the cattle is sold, an undertaking has to be given to the Animal Market Committee that the animal was bought for farm purposes alone. The Committee should also verify that the purchaser is indeed a farmer.

The rules prescribe that cattle trade would be restricted to only farmers belonging to State concerned and not outsiders. Like the seller before, the rules also ban the purchaser from selling the cattle for slaughter or religious sacrifice.

The Supreme Court had refused to intervene to ban animal sacrifices in 2015. The court had pointed to Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and observed that it was not an offence to kill an animal in a manner required by the religion of any community. It had observed that it cannot interfere with societal balance and harmony by questioning centuries-old customs of diverse religious faiths and traditions.

Cattle slaughter is a State subject. However these rules have been notified by the government under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 which empowers the Centre to prescribe rules on “any matter” to protect the life and dignity of animals.

The rules restrict sale or auction of cattle less than six months old. Even carcasses of animals which happen to die of “natural causes” in the market will be incinerated and not be sold or flayed for leather.

Rule 8 mandates that cattle markets will not be located within a radius of 25 km from inter State borders and 50 km from international borders, an obvious reference to the Supreme Court’s recent advice to have “common rules” to prevent cattle-smuggling. The court had in April 2017 asked the Centre to extend to Indo-Bangladesh border areas its rules framed to counter cross-border cattle-smuggling to Nepal.

Rule 9 prescribes that anything done in violation of the rules would result in the suo motu cancellation of registration of the market concerned.

A second notification simultaneously issued by the ministry introduced the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules of 2017. These rules deal with cattle which are part of a litigation or found abandoned or voluntarily relinquished by their owners.

The Centre had recently submitted a government panel report proposing “Unique Identification Number Sequences” for cows and its progeny to protect them from cattle smuggling. The government had found that stray, “retired” and abandoned cattle face high-risk of falling into smugglers’ hands. They are sneaked across the border, slaughtered and sold as beef.

The rules authorise animal infirmaries, pinjrapoles, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) units, animal welfare organisations and gaushalas to put up such cattle for adoption. Here to, these organisations should ensure that the person adopting is going to use the cattle only for agricultural purposes and not for slaughter.

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