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15 Jun 2017

SC asks govt to defend rules on market deals in cattle for slaughter

TT, New Delhi, June 15 (Agencies):  The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of the Union government to petitions challenging its controversial May 26 notification that has effectively halted market deals in cattle for slaughter.
A vacation bench of Justices R.K. Agrawal and S.K. Kaul asked the Centre to reply within two weeks to two separate petitions challenging the notification, issued ostensibly to prevent cruelty to cattle and livestock at markets.
The matter will be heard on July 11.
The day after the rules were notified, the government had rushed to defend them as a way to prevent cruelty to animals at the markets, and not regulate slaughter.
“The basic purpose of the Rule is to ensure welfare of the animals in the cattle market and ensure adequate facilities for housing, feeding, feed storage area, water supply, water troughs, ramps, enclosures for sick animals, veterinary care and proper drainage etc,” it had said.
“The prime focus of the regulation is to protect the animals from cruelty and not to regulate the existing trade in cattle for slaughter houses,” the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which had issued the rules, had said.
Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the notification was merely aimed at having a regulatory regime in cattle trade.  He also informed the court that the Madras High Court has put an interim stay on the notification.
One of the petitioners has said the provisions of the notification violated the fundamental rights including freedom of conscience and religion and right to livelihood, and so were unconstitutional.
The 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017' was notified under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
One of the petitioners, Hyderabad-based Mohammed Abdul Faheem Qureshi, had contended in his plea filed on June 7 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 said states such as Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Karnataka have said that they would not implement the 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.
The plea had further said that the 1960 Act was not enacted by Parliament to prohibit or restrict any act of slaughter of animals for food or for religious sacrifice or the sale of animals for it.
It had also sought the apex court's direction to declare the latest rules as unconstitutional. 
(This report was updated at 2pm.)

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