The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the notification banning sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter. The Centre has been asked to file its response within two weeks. The matter will be heard next on July 11.
Fahim Qureshi, a Hyderabad-based lawyer, moved the top court, saying the notification was “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional” as it violated the cattle trader’s right to free trade. A vacation bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Deepak Gupta is hearing the petition.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, issued by the Ministry of Environment, stated, “No person shall bring cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle – stating the name and address of the owner of the cattle, with a copy of the photo identification proof. Giving details of the identification of the cattle and stating that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter.”
The petitioner has argued that the restrictions placed by the new notification are in contrary to the very law under which it has been issued. Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act does not categorise slaughter of animals for food as cruelty on condition that it does not accompany pain and suffering.
Opposition to the notification
The notification had triggered protests across the country since the day it was announced. The move has already had an adverse impact on the leather industry. Abdul Faheem Qureshi, a representative of India’s Muslim Qureshi community of butchers, said in Uttar Pradesh some markets trading 1,000 animals last year were now down to as few as 100. India is the biggest seller of buffalo meat in the world, with exports that run up to $4 million. As Many traders are unhappy with this decision arguing that it is a way to impose BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ agenda.
“The business is dead,” said Aqil Qureshi, president of the Delhi Buffalo Traders’ Welfare Association who runs a slaughterhouse outside the city and sells hides to leather companies. “We will take legal help, we will hit the streets. Who does not fight for their livelihood?” was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Many leaders, including from within BJP, have also expressed their displeasure with this move of the central government. Two BJP party leaders from Meghalaya resigned as a mark of protest. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last month said he would call for a meeting of all the Chief Ministers, emphasising that the central ministry cannot impose such rules on individuals.
A widespread opposition was also witnessed in many states in the country. Beef festivals were held in many parts, including IIT Madras, where students asserted that the Centre cannot dictate food habits.
The BJP has, however, dismissed all the allegations. BJP national spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, “The BJP is saying this clearly that the question of having a law in a state on cow slaughter is to be decided by the state and not the Centre.” Home Minister Rajnath Singh also said taht the government is not trying to impose any restrictions on people’s choice of food.