The Madras High Court has put on hold the Centre’s restrictions on sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter for four weeks and has asked it to respond within that time on why its order should not be scrapped. It has also sought a reply from the Tamil Nadu government.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court was hearing a petition today that says that the Centre’s new order violates the basic right of a person to choose what he eats. The petition also says that the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets impinges upon people’s right to practice their profession or trade.
The environment ministry said last week that animal markets will only be able to trade in cattle meant for agricultural purposes. It said cattle for slaughter will have to be bought from farmers directly, defining cattle as bulls, cows, buffalo, steers, heifers, calves and camels.
The order is a huge setback to the meat industry and meat traders have said they plan to petition the Supreme Court to get it withdrawn.
There have been protests in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states like Kerala and Karnataka against the Centre’s order. MK Stalin, who leads Tamil Nadu’s main opposition party the DMK, has announced a massive protest in Chennai on Wednesday. Mr Stalin said the Centre has “snatched away” the fundamental right to choice of food given by the Constitution and also criticised the state’s ruling AIADMK for not “speaking up” on the issue.
Chief Ministers like Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan have called the Centre’s order an attack on state powers.
Mr Vijayan has written to all Chief Ministers to “stand together” and oppose the new rules, calling them a “drastic measure” taken bypassing “elected representatives and a public debate.” He alleged that it is a “covert attempt to usurp the powers of state legislatures” in the guise of rules.
Indian states have the power to pass their own laws on cattle slaughter and beef consumption, but the new rules come under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which is applied across India.