The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Narendra Modi-led government on petitions against its controversial notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter. The petitions alleged that the cattle trade rule violates fundamental rights to livelihood, freedom of religion and food choice. A vacation bench led by Justice R K Agrawal issued notice to the Centre and asked it to file response within two weeks. It also posted the matter for further hearing on July 11. The Madras High Court had already stayed the Centre’s cattle trade rule last week. The Centre told the bench that the intention of the rule was not to interfere with food preferences but to address the larger issue of cruelty to animals. Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha argued that intention was to have a regulatory regime on cattle trade across the country. Stating that the Centre’s move is unconstitutional, the petitions alleged that the rule is against freedom of “religious practice to sacrifice 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.”
The Centre had on May 26 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. There have been huge protests against the cattle trade rule in various states in the south and the North-East, where beef is a staple. The chief ministers of Bengal and Kerala have also said they were contemplating legal action against the rule.
The petitions stated that these states 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…,” one of the petitions stated.
The impugned provisions are imposing an absolute ban on slaughtering of animals in the country directly affecting the employment of the butchers and their trade, the plea claimed. 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, it said, adding that the blanket ban would cast a huge economic burden on the farmers and cattle traders.