In its order, quashing the Gujarat government’s notification banning livestock export from Tuna port, the Gujarat High Court called the decision “grossly illegal, unconstitutional and violative of the fundamental rights of the petitioners”.
On April 1, the High Court has set aside the state government’s December 14, 2018 notification that had prohibited movement of cattle into the drought-affected areas from outside. The court was of the view that since the state government does not have any power to directly prevent exports and such matter is only to be decided by the Union Government, they chose to prohibit exports, indirectly, “under the guise of exercise of powers under section 4(1)(b) of the Cattle Control Act.”
Four traders, who export goats and sheep to Middle East through Tuna port, had filed a petition in the High Court, challenging the Gujarat government’s decision against the ban on livestock export. In their petition, they had cited the December 2018 notification of the government as well as Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s announcement that the “state government will not let this business of export of livestock happen from the soil of Gujarat”.
Calling the government’s decision “discriminatory”, the High Court in its April 1 order, which was made public on Wednesday, stated, “According to the petitioners, what the impugned notification prohibits is movement of any cattle from outside into the drought-affected area — which would mean that cattle cannot be brought into the drought-affected area if such area is the terminal point where the cattle are to be kept, but since the petitioners are bringing livestock in the drought-affected area during the course of transit and the terminal point is not within the drought-affected area, the impugned notification would not be applicable to them.”
Regarding the state government’s notice of the mandatory requirement of quarantine certificate for export of livestock, the court noted that the matter of due export compliance (such as quarantine certificate) falls “within the domain of customs authorities, and the state government has no concern with the same. However, it appears that with a view to appease a section of the society which is averse to export of livestock from Tuna port, the state government has swung into action, and has from time-to-time taken all steps to ensure that the petitioners and other similarly situated persons are not able to export livestock from Tuna port.”
The court also did not allow the request of the Gujarat government to stay the order for further six weeks so as to enable the respondents to approach the higher forum, stating that “staying this order for six weeks would render the petition infructuous”.
The court also dismissed the validity of the December 14, 2018 notification, that was issued by Under Secretary, Home Department to the Superintendent of Police, Kutch (West), pertaining to the setting up of check-posts and deployment of police personnel to keep round-the-clock vigil on any export of livestock.
“Transport of animals takes place throughout Gujarat, and hence, if the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Transport of Animals Act are required to be strictly complied with, (then) it has to be all over the state. The fact that such instructions have been issued only to the Superintendent of Police Kutch (West), that too, on the same day when the Chief Minister addressed the press informing that exports from Tuna port were being prohibited, indicates that the same has not been issued bona fide, but under the guise of compliance of the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Transport of Animals Act — in effect and substance, it is the export of livestock from Tuna port which is sought to be prevented. Evidently, therefore, the impugned communication has been issued in colourable exercise of powers with an oblique intention to prevent export from Tuna port and is also discriminatory, in as much as it discriminates between animals being transported into and within Kutch district, and the animals being transported into and within other districts of the state; and is therefore, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India (equality before law),” the court order noted.
The court quashed all notifications and circulars issued, thereby noting, “Considering the overall facts… in the light of the chequered history… under one pretext or the other, the state authorities have been attempting to prevent export from Tuna port…”
The communications addressed, all of which make it manifest that the object behind the issuance of the impugned notification as well as the impugned communications is to prevent export from Tuna port.”