NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today said it will hear on June 15 a plea challenging the Centre's notification banning sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter on the grounds that its provisions were unconstitutional.
A petition challenging the new rules that has kicked up a controversy was mentioned before a vacation bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Deepak Gupta for an early hearing. The bench then listed the matter for hearing on June 15. The petition was moved by Hyderabad-based Mohammed Abdul Faheem Qureshi.
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court declined to stay the central ban. Considering a batch of petitions challenging the notification that imposed restrictions on the sale of cattle, Justice P B Suresh Kumar said the court would consider the application seeking a stay after seeing the Centre's counter. The court had directed the Centre to file its counter affidavit with regard to the impact of the notification.
The Centre, however, did not inform its stand on the issue today. Posting the case on June 26 for hearing, the court today directed the Centre to file the counter affidavit before the next hearing. In the Supreme Court, the petitioner contended that the provisions in the notification were unconstitutional as they violated the fundamental rights including freedom of conscience and religion and right to livelihood. The petition claimed that the government notification issued last month was "against the freedom of religious practice to sacrifice the animals" and imposing a ban on slaughter of animals for food violates the right to food, privacy and personal liberty guaranteed to a citizen under the Constitution. It claimed that states like Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and Karnataka have said that they would not implement the Centre's ban as it would impact the livelihood of those involved in this business.
"It is also to be noted that slaughtering of animals for food, the foods and culinary made out of such animal flesh and offering sacrifice of animals is a part of cultural identity of such communities, which is protected from any legislative or executive encroachment under Article 29 of the Constitution of India which is not been subjected to any restriction by the framers of the Constitution...," it said.
Complete ban of sale or purchase or re-sale of animals would cast a huge economic burden on the farmers, cattle traders who find it difficult to feed their children today, it said.
They would be also required to feed the cattle as it was an offence under Act of 1960 (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) to starve an animal or failure to maintain it and would also "give way for cow vigilantes to harass farmers and cattle traders under the blessing of the impugned regulations", said the petition filed through advocate Sanobar Ali Qureshi.
The petition further said the 1960 Act was not enacted by Parliament to prohibit or restrict any act of slaughter of animals for food or for religious sacrifice or the sale of animals for it.
It has sought the apex court's direction to declare these rules of Prevention Of Cruelty To Animal (Regulation Of Live Stocks, Markets) Rules and Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (Care And Maintenance Of Case Property Animals) as ultra vires and unconstitutional.
The impugned provisions are imposing an absolute ban on slaughtering of animals in the country directly affecting the employment of the butchers and their trade, the plea said.
It is depriving the citizens food of their choice and is in violation of the right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution and also inconsistent and violative of section 28 of the parent Act, the plea said.