Defying the Centre’s decision to ban sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that her government would “not accept this order” and would “challenge it legally and constitutionally”. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also opposed the ban and appealed to his counterparts in all other states to object to the “covert attempt to usurp the powers of the state legislature in the guise of rules under a Central Act.” Banerjee called it a “deliberate attempt to encroach on the state’s powers”. “It is absolutely unconstitutional, undemocratic and unethical. It is also an attempt to destroy the federal structure of the country. We are not accepting the ban. We will challenge it legally. We will consult the state’s Advocate General.
I will request the Centre not to interfere with the state’s matter and not to destroy the federal structure,” she said. “They (Centre) are an elected government and they have their jurisdiction. The state government is also an elected government and it has its jurisdiction. I am sorry to say that nowadays, the Centre is directly encroaching on the state’s powers… to destroy the federal structure, and bulldozing the states unnecessarily,” she said. “The law is very clear… but still the decision is being forced down our throats. We will not accept that. We will challenge it legally and constitutionally, for interference in state power. We are not bound to abide by the Centre’s decision. This is a subject on the concurrent list,” said Banerjee.
Referring to recent incidents when dairy farmers were targeted while transporting cows, she said: “How will you distinguish between a cow to be used for farming and a cow being taken for slaughter?” Banerjee also questioned the timing of the notification. “Why did they choose the month of Ramzan to announce this decision? Who are they to decide who will eat what, and who will wear what? They have no right to tape people’s mouth. It is time to tape the mouths of those who made this law because they are not abiding by the Constitution. Stay within your limit… don’t cross your limit,” said Banerjee.
Meanwhile, in a letter sent to other chief ministers on Monday, Vijayan said, “Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal, democratic fabric and secular culture of our country. I would, therefore, fervently appeal to you to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, to the Prime Minister and to request him to withdraw the Rules introduced without any consultation with the states’’.
Stating that the “subjects covered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 fall under the State List in the Constitution, he said: “This encroachment into the domain of the state legislature is a clear violation of the spirit of federalism. It is nothing but a covert attempt to usurp the powers of the state legislature in the guise of rules under a Central Act.’’
He said the Rules impose unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. They also violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food, he said. Last week, the Environment Ministry notified the Regulation of Livestock Market Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. According to these Rules, “…no person shall bring a cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle or his duly authorised agent… stating that the cattle has not been brought to the market for sale for slaughter”.
Another provision states that “…where an animal has been sold and before its removal from the animal market, the Animal Market Committee (to be formed in every district) shall… take an undertaking that the animals are brought for agriculture purposes and not for slaughter”. The rules also require the Animal Market Committee to ensure that the buyer of cattle does not further sell the animals for slaughter.