The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Centre on pleas challenging its controversial notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter.
A vacation bench comprising Justices R K Agrawal and S K Kaul issued notice to the Centre and asked it to file response within two weeks on two separate petitions challenging the notification.
The apex court fixed the matter for hearing on July 11.
Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that intention behind bringing the notification was to have a regulatory regime on cattle trade across the country.
He also told the apex court that the Madras High Court has recently granted interim stay on the notification.
One of the petitioners, who has approached the apex court challenging the notification, has claimed in his plea 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 Centre had on May 26 banned the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter through an Environment Ministry notification -- 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017' under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
It also 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...," the petitioner had said.
A complete ban on 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, the plea had said.
The cattle also needs to be fed as it was an offence under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to starve an animal or failure to maintain it and the notification would also "give way for cow vigilantes to harass farmers and cattle traders under the blessing of impugned regulations", it said.
The plea had further said that 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 had also 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 claimed.
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, it said.