Madras HC order applicable all over India, Centre to respond.
Madurai/New Delhi: The Madurai bench of the Madras high court on Wednesday stayed for four weeks the Central government’s notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter in animal markets as the subject of the law was in the State List. The high court’s interim order followed protests in some states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal, against the measure. The court has directed the respondents to file their response within four weeks.
Under relentless Opposition attack, the government, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that it was examining all the “issues” raised by some state governments and trade organisations.
The court dismissed the arguments by the additional solicitor-general of India, representing the Centre, that the rules are to be presumed as framed by Parliament. “This court is not in full agreement that a presumption is in favour of the Central government when a particular rule is introduced, not by Parliament, but by the executive, as the primary aspect is that the subject of the law under consideration is in the State List,” said a division bench comprising Justices M.V. Muralidharan and C.V. Karthikeyan.
The court passed the interim order on two writ petitions filed by senior counsel Ajmal Khan and advocate Dhana Aravinda Balaji challenging the constitutional validity of Rules (22)b(iii) and 22(e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulations of Livestocks Markets) Rule 2017 that was notified by the Centre on May 23.
A defiant West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had on Monday called the new rules “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and said it would be challenged legally. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had termed the ban “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular”, and shot off letters to the chief ministers of all states asking them to “stand together” and oppose it. He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the new regulations.
Stating the arguments advanced by the senior counsel call for granting the interim relief, the judges noted the subject of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act was also in the Concurrent list. As far as slaughter of animals was concerned, it was exclusively in the State List, the court said.
“Under the above background, it should be tested if the impugned rule is within the constitutional and/or legal framework and have consideration over and above the state enactments in this secular country,” Justice Muralidharan said.
The petitioners also said the provisions breached the “cardinal principle of federalism” as it amounted to legislation in areas earmarked for state legislatures.
In New Delhi, senior Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the government was examining the issues raised by the states and trade organisations. The ban, he said, was notified in the backdrop of observations made by the Supreme Court and a parliamentary committee on preventing cruelty to animals.