The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that draft guidelines for regulating breeding and transportation of poultry birds have been framed by a government-appointed committee after consulting all stakeholders.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar by central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh.
The court was hearing a batch of PILs by NGOs Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and the People for Animals which have claimed that keeping egg-laying hens in small wired cages amounts to "extreme cruelty".
The bench listed the matter for further hearing on January 20 to enable NGOs to go through draft rules and give its feedback.
During the hearing, a poultry farmers' association made an oral plea to be impleaded in the matter claiming their interests were being affected.
The court, however, declined the plea saying even though the farmers were aware they would be affected, they had not filed a petition till date.
The high court had in November last year observed that hens should be able to "move around comfortably" in cages, suggesting that they be kept in cages which are bigger than the small wired ones being used currently.
It had directed the Environment Ministry to set up, and chair, a committee to lay down guidelines on the breeding and transportation of poultry birds.
The court had said the committee should consider the Law Commission's recommendations on the issue, the suggestions of other states and the views of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as also other stakeholders including poultry farmers, and submit a report.
"Till a decision is taken, no further battery (small wired) cages would be permitted to be used," the court had said and added, "use big cages where they can moved around comfortably. They should be able to move around freely."
The petitions were transferred from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh to Delhi by the Supreme Court.
The NGOs have contended in their pleas that under the battery caging system, egg-laying hens are confined to space equivalent to an A-4 size paper sheet.
They told the court such cages are still the common method of housing chickens, despite the AWBI suggesting states to phase them out.
They have also claimed before the bench that poultry farmers cut out a portion of the beaks of the birds and they are kept in cramped and dirty cages.
According to the NGOs as well as the AWBI, egg-laying hens need much more space than the confined area provided by small cages which are stacked one on top of another. They have alleged that there was hardly any space for movement of birds in these cages.