The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the central government on a plea challenging validity of certain provisions amended in the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals Act which deprives a person from ownership of cattle during the pendency of trial.
The earlier provision prescribed that the custody of an animal can be taken only after the owner has been convicted.
A Division Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and B.R. Gavai asked the central government to file reply on the plea within four weeks.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Buffalo Traders Welfare Association through its President, Mohd. Aqil Qureshi.
Representing the association, advocate Sanobar Ali Qureshi requested the court to set aside certain provisions of the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (Care And Maintenance Of Case Property Animals), Rules 2017 which was amended via centre's notification dated May 23 2017.
Calling it as unconstitutional, the petitioner said that the amended rules are contrary to the section 29 and 35 of the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals, 1960 and against the Constitution.
The petitioner's society challenged notification, particularly Rule 3, 5, 8 and 9 of the animal act which permits the forfeitures of the animals and sends the animals to Gaushala, Pinjrapole, infirmary, if the owner pleads guilty and as such not release the animals even during the pending litigation.
Rule 3 empowers the magistrate to direct the animal to be housed at an infirmary, pinjrapole, animal welfare organisation or Gaushala during the pendency of the litigation.
Rule 5 empowers a magistrate to direct the accused and the owner to execute a bond at the time of handing over the animal to the infirmary.
Rule 8 says that in case an accused is found guilty, the magistrate shall deprive him of the ownership of animal and forfeit the seized animal to the infirmary, pinjrapole, animal welfare organisation or Gaushala already having custody for proper adoption or other disposition.
According to Section 29, an animal maybe forfeited on the second conviction of the accused under the provisions of the act.
"However, the impugned rules allow forfeiture during the pendency of litigation and on the first conviction and are thus ultra-vires the parent Act," the petitioner said.
The advocate said that after the notification of the impugned rules, transporters, cattle traders and farmers are facing threats due to anti-social elements taking law in their own hands.
"This results in frequent looting of the animals. 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," the advocate said.
He said that these incidents are acting as trigger for communal polarization of the society, and if not halted effectively and immediately, will have disastrous consequences on the social fabric of the country.