The central government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter was meant for putting in place a "regulatory regime" on cattle trade across the country.
The Centre’s clarification came as the apex court sought its response on the pleas challenging the May 26 notification.
The notification issued by the Environment Ministry banned sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
A vacation bench comprising justices R K Agrawal and S K Kaul issued notice to the government and asked it to file its reply on the pleas within two weeks and fixed the matter for hearing on July 11.
During the brief hearing, Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, representing the Centre, told that bench that the intention behind coming out with the notification was to have some kind of a regulatory regime.
"The intention was to bring in existence some kind of a regulatory regime for cattle trade," he told the bench.
He said the notification would also check irregularities in cattle markets and it would not have any impediment on the genuine cattle traders across the country.
When one of the petitioners requested the bench to stay the notification, Narasimha said the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has already granted an interim stay on it and it would not be enforced as of now.
On May 30, the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai had granted an interim stay of four weeks on the centre’s notification while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition challenging the constitutional validity of the new rules.
The counsel appearing for one of the petitioners told the apex court that due to the notification, serious problems have cropped up in places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other nearby states.
One of the petitioners before the apex court has claimed that provisions in the notification were unconstitutional as they violated the fundamental rights including freedom of conscience and religion and right to livelihood.
The Centre had last month banned the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter through an Environment Ministry 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 his plea 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 re-sale 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.
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.
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, the plea said.
(With PTI inputs)