The government’s rule banning the trade of cattle for slaughter will be suspended across the country until changes are made, the Supreme Court said today, backing a Madras High Court order for Tamil Nadu. The centre told the court that it could take at least three months to consider “various suggestions” and criticism.
In May, the centre issued an order banning the slaughter of cattle sold in animal markets and said such animals could only be used for agricultural purposes like ploughing and dairy production. Cattle for slaughter would have to be bought from farmers directly, the order said.
Days later, on a petition that alleged a violation of the basic right of a person to choose his livelihood or what he eats, the Madras High Court put the centre’s rules on hold in Tamil Nadu for four weeks.
The centre’s ban provoked protests not just in Tamil Nadu, but also in neighbouring Karnataka and Kerala, where lawmakers enjoyed a beef meal before rejecting the central cattle order in the assembly. In the northeast, where the meat is a staple in most states, beef fests were held in protest. The BJP faced the anger of its own leaders in states like Assam and Mizoram.
The Supreme Court’s ruling today, on a petition that called the ban unfair and unconstitutional, is a reprieve for the multi-billion dollar meat and leather industries that employ millions.
The bench disposed of the plea filed by the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee challenging the
constitutional validity of the May 23 notification.
Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha had requested the court for not issuing any order since the government was re-examining the rules and that new changes were likely to be notified by the end of August.
Narasimha said, the recent notification, in any case, will not be effective unless the state governments earmark local markets as stipulated under it where cattle sale takes place. “Moreover, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and others authorities concerned are looking into various suggestions and objections to the notification and a fresh amended one will be re-notified,” he said
But the bench responded: “Livelihood cannot be subjected to uncertainties.” It said that the government could go ahead and notify the new rules but the operation of the current rules will stay for the entire country.
The court also said that the government will have to give sufficient time for implementation of the new rules and also for enabling aggrieved people to approach the court again once the new rules are notified. It disposed of the current batch of petitions.