In a blow to Centre, SC stays contentious cattle sale rules

cattle-trafficking

HIGHLIGHTS

  • SC has stayed the controversial rules issued recently to ban sale of cattle for slaughter at livestock markets
  • Several petitions pending in HCs may result in conflicting orders, it was argued
  • SC asked the government to keep the rules in abeyance till the authorities take a considered view on representations against the rules

NEW DELHI: Providing ammunition to the Centre’s critics, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the controversial rules issued recently to ban the sale of cattle for slaughter at livestock markets that led to a major political row.

The SC order is a big relief for the Muslim community, which has a large presence in the abattoir business and could allay fears that the rules amount to dietary restrictions and are intended to appease the Hindutva constituency. A notification for implementation of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017, had dismayed cattle traders, butchers and beef eaters (buff in most states) about a constriction in the supply of this meat.

The validity of the rules was challenged in various high courts and the SC. The Madurai bench of Madras HC had stayed the rules. Additional solicitor general PS Narasimha made all-out efforts to avert a stay on implementation of the rules. “Given the sensitivity attached to the issue… the government is keen to amend the rules after consulting various stakeholders. The amendments will come by the end of August,” he said. The court recorded the ASG’s submissions and appeared satisfied not to pass an interim order.

But senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee, said several petitions were pending in HCs which could pass conflicting orders. That would create confusion in the general public. “For the sake of clarity, the apex court must restrain the Centre from implementing the rules,” Sibal said. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud found merit in Sibal’s apprehension and said the Madurai bench’s stay would apply across the country. It disposed of the petitions and said as and when the government notified the amended rules, the Centre would provide for sufficient time between notification and implementation to permit those aggrieved by it to challenge it in court.

 It, however, seems that delay in amending the rules announced on June 27 have added to the uncertainty. Despite an acknowledgement in official circles that the rules were not well thought through and pronouncements by environment minister Harsh Vardhan that a review is on the cards, the rules have not been altered so far.

 “Please do not pass an interim order staying the rules as the government is not seeking modification of the Madurai bench’s interim stay. In any case, identification of livestock markets has to be done by the state governments prior to notifying them for applying the amended rules. That will take at least three more months. So, there is no impending possibility of the rules being implemented,” Narasimha said.

During the hearing, the bench repeatedly told the ASG, “If you (the government) want the court to take a balanced view, then it will be appropriate that the rules are kept in abeyance till the authorities take a considered view on representations against the rules. Till then, don’t implement the rules.”
Narasimha said the apprehension of a shortage of beef was unfounded. “I have found from Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) that there was no shortage of beef for domestic consumption and for exports because of the rules,” he said. Sibal asked why the Centre should interfere in the affairs of states, which alone had the power to notify livestock markets? “Why would the central government want a seller and a buyer of cattle to give a certificate that the animal is not meant for slaughter?” he asked.

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