The Centre’s proposal to ban the sale of cattle in animal markets for slaughter might remain just that — a proposal. The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the interim direction issued by the Madras High Court on May 31, staying the relevant environment ministry notification, would remain in force and cover the entire country. Relenting on its stand, the Centre told the apex court that “as of now, (we are) not seeking a stay on the Madras HC order”.
Consistent with environment minister Harsh Vardhan reconsidering a proposal that ruffled many feathers in political and business circles, additional solicitor general PS Narasimha said: “Moreover, the ministry of environment and forests and others authorities concerned are looking into various suggestions and objections to the notification and a fresh amended one will be re-notified.”
The May 23 order hasn’t taken effect as state governments haven’t acted on it. In any case, Narasimha said, the notification won’t be effective unless state governments earmark local markets as stipulated under it where cattle sale takes place. Vardhan had said the intention behind the notification was not to harm any particular group or influence food habits or jeopardise the meat/leather businesses.
Taking note of the Centre’s statement that it was reconsidering the notification by taking into account various objections and suggestions of stakeholders and would come up with an amended notification, a bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and justice DY Chandrachud disposed of the plea, filed by India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee. The apex court also the Centre to give “sufficient time” so as to enable aggrieved persons to approach the court again with their grievance if any.
While the proposed regulations are ostensibly meant to protect animals from cruelty and not to prohibit the trade in cattle for slaughter, many felt that it would hit India’s meat and leather trade, including exports. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products and Export Development Authority (Apeda), a body attached to the commerce ministry, wrote to the environment ministry asking that the notification be put in abeyance.
The environment ministry had notified the stringent Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
After the Uttar Pradesh government’s crackdown on illegal abattoirs in the state in March, the country’s buffalo meat shipments declined 10% (year-on-year) in April; however, it has since picked up.