Madras HC stays notification on cattle trade ban
The Madras HC order comes at a time when the opposition parties have gone on a warpath against the central government’s notification banning sale of cattle for slaughter.
The Madras high court suspended on Tuesday a controversial central government rule that outlawed sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets and triggered a political storm in India.
Even as the court ordered a four-week stay on the notification, the Centre said it was examining the points raised by several states, including Kerala and West Bengal, which call the order an attack on India’s federal structure.
The government, however, denied trying to restrict food habits of the people through the notification that has led to protests and staging of beef festivals in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Congress activists in Kerala killed a cow in a public square on Saturday, an act that sparked outrage and forced party leaders to condemn the incident.
A PhD scholar who participated in a campus beef festival at the IIT-Madras was allegedly assaulted by some students on Tuesday, police said.
Millions of Hindus consider the cow to be holy and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the idelogical mentor of the ruling BJP – has been pushing for a countrywide ban on cow slaughter.
Critics say the rule -- banning the sale of cows, bulls, bullocks, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves, and camels for slaughter -- violates individual rights and will hurt millions of cattle and meat traders.
“The slaughtering of animals for food, the food and culinary (items) made out of such animal flesh and offering sacrifice of animals are part of cultural identity of most communities in India, protected under the Constitution,” petitioners Selvagomathy and Asik Ilahi Bhava told the Madurai bench of the high court.
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.
Beef and buffalo meat is a common delicacy in some south and northeastern states. Activists and opposition political parties say the rule discriminates against Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus who rely on the cheap meat for protein.
Union information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu defended the move saying the notification was in response to a Supreme Court observation on preventing cruelty to animals and “breaking the nexus in animal markets, including for smuggling”.
Though Naidu said the government was examining the representation by states, he refused to comment on whether the notification will be reconsidered.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday asked the state police not to comply with the Centre’s notification.
“What someone will eat is his or her personal choice. No one has the right to dictate. Don’t follow that order. The state has not given any such order. The administration should ensure that there is no confusion,” she told officials in Barrackpore.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday termed the ban “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular”. He also wrote to his counterparts in other states asking them to “stand together” and oppose it.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said his government was analysing the developments.
“We are examining devpmts & awaiting Govt Order on Centre’s recent curb on sale of cattle for slaughter, esp since this is a State subject (sic),” he tweeted.
(With agency inputs)