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Kerala HC v Madras HC on Cow Slaughter

The Ministry of Environment and Forests on 26th May’2017 notified new rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, banning the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets across India. This unprecedented move of Govt. through notification rose to several controversies. Prominent amongst them were that the ban is contrary to parent Act, 1960, and that it violates Article 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the Constitution. It has been held in in Hinsa Virodhak Sangh vs Mirzapur Moti Kuresh Jamat (2008) 5 SCC 33, and In Re Ramlila Incident (2012) 5 SCC 1 that what one eats is one’s personal affair and forms part of right to privacy under Article 21.

Ms. S. Selvagomathy, an activist-cum-lawyer based in Madurai, filed a PIL in High Court of Madras under Article 226, which was granted an urgent hearing by the Division Bench comprised of M.V. Muralidaran. J. and C.V. Karthikeyan. J., on request of Senior Counsel M. Ajmal Khan. Based on the argument of Ms. S. Selvagomathy that the notification is repugnant to section 26 of the parent Act, 1960, the Madurai Bench of the High Court of Madras on 30th may’2017 granted a four weeks stay on the operation of the recently notified Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017.

On contrary to this, A Division Bench of Kerala High Court comprising Chief Justice Navniti Prasad Singh and Justice Raja Vijayaraghava dismissed the PIL challenging the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017. The Petition, filed by MLA Hibi Eden and meat shop owner P.U. Kunju Muhammed, contends that the Rules violate Articles 14, 19 & 21 of the Constitution of India, and that they amount to a colorable exercise of the power, encroaching upon legislative domain of state legislature.

The Bench observed that the new notification does not impose any restrictions on the sale of beef or slaughter of cattle. It said the restrictions were on the sale of cattle used for agriculture purpose at animal markets. The rule did prevent anyone from buying or selling cattle outside the market, however, these preparations mediated terrestrial and cosmic forces into the soil. Following the Court interpretation of the notification, the petitioner withdrew the PIL but the situation is still in dilemma for the territory outside the jurisdiction of Kerala High Court and Madras High Court. Both the court with conflicting order have created yet another issue which shall be taken into consideration by apex Court.

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