Centre’s Cattle Rules: What four courts have said

Published on 17 Jun 2017 by Team

The Central government’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had notified the controversial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 on May 23.

The Rules, which ban the sale of cattle for the purpose of slaughter in animal markets, has triggered wide spread protests in states like Kerala, where there are no restrictions on slaughter of cattle and beef is widely consumed.

Rule 22 of the Rules framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, place certain specific restrictions on the sale of cattle in these markets.

Rule 22(b) requires a person bringing cattle to the market to submit a written declaration stating that the animal has not been brought to the market for slaughter. Further, Rule 22(d) requires an Animal Market Monitoring Committee to obtain a certificate from the buyer of an animal that it has been bought for agricultural purposes. Rule 22(e) prevents the purchaser from selling the animal for slaughter.

The Rules also have an exhaustive definition of ‘animal market’:

““animal market” means a market place or sale-yard or any other premises or place to which animals are brought from other places and exposed for sale or auction and includes any lairage adjoining a market or a slaughterhouse and used in connection with it and any place adjoining a market used as a parking area by visitors to the market for parking vehicles and includes animal fair and cattle pound where animals are offered or displayed for sale or auction.”

The Rules largely look to ensure that cruelty to animals is prevented and that animal markets are hygienic. A number of practices including disfigurement of animals, branding, castration, forcing animals to perform unnatural acts such as dancing, putting ornaments on animals etc. are prohibited under the Rules. It also prohibits infliction of pain on animals, tying them up, penning and caging, and provides that they should be adequately fed, watered and giving proper bedding and light. However, the Centre seemed to have equated animal cruelty to slaughter.

Though the Rules do not expressly ban cattle slaughter, it makes things very difficult for farmers who want to sell their cattle for slaughter. Moreover, the rules also imply that even buffaloes cannot be sold for slaughter in these markets.

As expected, it led to a flurry of litigation in different courts in the country. Four courts are now seized of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Rules. Below are the details.

Madras High Court: “Is the Central government empowered to enact the impugned Rules?”

This was the first petition to be heard pertaining to this issue. The petitioner is a lawyer and a social activist, S Selvagomathy.

Selvagomathy has challenged Rules 22(b)(iii) and 22(e) as being ultra vires the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and Articles 14, 19, 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution.

She has contended that Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act provides an exhaustive list of acts, which are deemed to be cruel to animals, and that slaughter is not one of them. She has questioned the Centre’s competence to frame Rules which go beyond the scope of the Act.

Besides, she has also submitted that the Rules would adversely affect the farmers’ right to life under Article 21 and even says that it will give cow vigilantes more fuel to push their agenda.

The petition was heard by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court comprising Justices MV Muralidaran and CV Karthikeyanon May 30.

The Court issued notice to the Central government and stayed the Rules.

In its order, the Court observed that there cannot be a presumption in favour of the Central government when the subject matter of law under consideration is in the State List and prevention of cruelty to animals is in the concurrent list.

This court is not in a full agreement that a presumption is in favour of the Central government when a particular rule is introduced not by the Parliament but by the Executive because the primary aspect is that the subject of the law under consideration is in the State List in Entry no 15. In addition to that, it is also to be kept in mind that the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is also in the Concurrent List in Entry no. 17. At the same time, so far as slaughtering of animals is concerned, it is exclusively in the Concurrent List. Under the above background, it should be tested whether the impugned Rule is within the Constitutional and/ or legal framework and have consideration over and above the State enactments in this secular country.”

The Court, therefore stayed the notification and sought Centre’s response.

Kerala High Court: “Rules effectively ban slaughter”

There were two sets of petitions filed in the Kerala High Court with regard to the impugned Rules.

One was a public interest litigation which was filed by a Youth Congress Leader as a Public Interest Litigation, came up for hearing before a Division Bench presided by Chief Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh and Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan.

The Court in this petition made its intentions very clear, stating that slaughter of cattle or consumption of beef has not been banned by the Rules. It remarked that the Rules only seek to regulate sale of cattle for slaughter and people seemed to be objecting without reading the Rules.

The Bench also expressed its surprise at the decision of Madras High Court, which had stayed the notification yesterday.

The Youth Congress Leader therefore withdrew the PIL.

Two others petitions, one filed by MLA Hibi Eden and Kunju Mohammed, and the other filed by Naseer PM, were heard by a Single Bench of Justice PB Suresh Kumar.

The Court passed an order in these petitions on June 7. It refused to grant any interim relief but made some significant observations in its order.

It stated that the object of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, pursuant to which the impugned rules have been enacted, is to prevent cruelty to animals and it does not prohibit slaughter of animals for food. Hence, there is force in the contention of the petitioner that the impugned Rules is ultra vires the Act which neither deals with livestock nor regulation of activities in markets.

It is all the more so since slaughtering is a permissible activity under the Act. Further, preservation protection and improvement of livestock and regulation of markets being State subjects falling under Entries 15 and 28 of List II of 7th schedule to the Constitution, there is also force in contention advanced by the petitioners that the Central government cannot make subordinate legislation as in the instant case prohibiting trade of cattle for slaughter in animal markets…”

The Court also observed that though the Rules do not prohibit slaughter of animals for food, the exhaustive definition given in the Rules for ‘animal markets’ has created a situation where only those persons who rear cattle in their own farms alone would be able to slaughter them.

The specific case of the petitioners is that 90 percent of the cattle for slaughter are sourced from animal markets and therefore, the impugned Rule is, in effect, a ban on slaughter of cattle and hence the same infringes the fundamental rights of thousands of people who are involved in the trade of cattle and meat. If the said case of the petitioners is correct, the contention of the petitioners that the same infringes fundamental rights guaranteed to the petitioners under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution is to be considered seriously.”

The Court, however, did not stay the Rules but posted the matter for hearing on June 28 for expeditious disposal.

Bombay High Court: Notice to Centre and Goa

This petition was filed before the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court by Quraishi’s Meat Traders’ Association of Goa.

According to TOI, the petitioner has submitted that Goa’s meat traders purchase their cattle from the open markets of Belgaum, Karnataka, and the new rules are likely to affect cattle trade between the two states. The petitioner Association has challenged Rule 22 among other things.

The Court issued notice to the Central government and Goa government and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

Supreme Court: Notice but no stay

The petition has been filed by a Hyderabad-based organisation called All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee, through advocate Sanobar Ali Qureshi.

The petitioner claims that Rules 22(a), (b)(iii), (c), (d)(ii), (iv), (v), (vi), (vii), (e)(ii),(iii) and 25(5) are violative of Articles 19(1)(g), 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution. It also assails the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2016 as being ultra vires Sections 29 and 35 of the parent Act.

It also cites the decisions of the Bombay High Court and the Allahabad High Court in Sheik Zahid Mukthar v. State of Maharashtra and Saeed Ahamed v. State of UP, which held that the state cannot deprive its citizens of their right to choice of food.

Further, Rules 8 (1) and (2) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2016 provide that the animal can be confiscated on the owner’s first offence. This, according to the petition, is antithetical to Section 29 of the Act, which provides that the animals are liable to be confiscated only when the owner is convicted for the second time.

Moreover, it states that slaughter of animals for the purpose of food does not amount to cruelty, as per Section 11(3) of the Act. Also, Section 28 of the Act provides that killing of an animal in any manner required by the religion of any community does not come under scope of the Act. It also states,

“… slaughtering of animals for food, the foods and culinary made out of such animal flesh and offering sacrifice of animals is a part of the cultural identity of such communities, which is protected from any legislative or executive encroachment under Article 29 of the Constitution of India…”

The petition also states that Rule 22 of the Regulation of Livestock Markets Rules affects the right to profession under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

“…the complete ban of sale or purchase or resale of animals, would cast a huge economic burden on the farmers, cattle traders who find it difficult to feed their children today…would also give way for Cow Vigilantes to harass farmers and cattle traders under the blessing of the impugned regulations…”

According to the petitioner, the Rules impose heavy costs on owners of animals, who usually come for economically weaker sections of society.

The matter was heard by a vacation Bench of Justices RK Agarwal and Sanjay KishanKaul which proceeded to issue notice to the Central government but refused to stay the impugned Rules. The matter is now listed for hearing on July 11.

News Source- Bar & Bench

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