Madras HC stays Centre’s notification on sale of cattle for slaughter
The Madras high court temporarily put on hold on Tuesday a controversial central government rule that outlawed the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets and triggered a political storm, news agencies reported.
The court ordered a four-week stay on the notification that has been described by critics as violating individual rights and hurting millions of cattle and meat traders.
The notification – that banned the sale of cows, bulls, bullocks, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves, and camels for slaughter – has been fiercely opposed by several states such as Kerala and West Bengal that call the order an attack on India’s federal structure.
Regulating cattle trade is a state subject but animal welfare is overseen by the Centre.
The new rules didn’t amount to a blanket ban on cattle trade or their slaughter. But the move was expected to choke supplies to the country’s Rs 1-lakh crore meat and allied industries that source about 90% of their requirements from animal markets.
A Madurai bench, comprising justices MV Muralidharan and CV Karthikeyan issued the interim order on the two pleas which said the rules should be quashed as they were against the Constitution, breached the principle of federalism and were contrary to the parent legislation -- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
The judges said a delegated power to legislate by making rules, for carrying out the purposes of the Act, was general in nature, without laying any guidelines.
“It cannot be so exercised as to bring into existence substantive rights or obligations or disabilities not contemplated by the provisions of the act,” they said.
The court said there was considerable force in the arguments advanced by senior counsel for the petitioners for granting interim relief sought.
The judges were not in agreement with the assistant solicitor general that a presumption was in favour of the central government when a particular rule was introduced not by Parliament, but by the executive.
Referring to the contention of the petitioners that the notification was related to food and hence ought to have been approved by Parliament, the judges asked the Centre to respond to the point also in its counter to be filed in four weeks.
(With agency inputs)