The Madras high court on Tuesday stayed the Centre’s controversial May 23 notification banning sale of cattle in animal markets for slaughter.A vacation bench of Justice M V Muralidharan and Justice C V Karthikeyan, granting interim stay on the operation of the notification, also issued notices to the state and central governments, seeking reply in Beef fest: IIT-Madras PhD scholar beaten up, P 14 four weeks. The interim order effectively stops operation of Rule 22(b) (iii) and Rule 22(e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulations of live Stock Markets) Rules 2017.

The bench passed the order when PILs filed by S Selvagomathy and Asik Elahi Baba of Madurai, seeking to declare th ose rules as ultra vires the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and various other constitutional provisions, came up for admission on Tuesday .

During arguments, the petitioner’s counsel told the court that India was a multi-religious and multi-cultural, secular republic which ensured social justice to all its citizens. The Legislature has not categorised slaughter of animals for the purpose of food as an act of cruelty. In fact, the scheme of the Act specifically provides for and permits slaughter of any animal for the purpose of food.

The Parliament did not enact the Act to in any way prohibit or restrict any act of slaughter of animals for food or for religious sacrifice or the sale of animals for these purposes.The joint secretary of the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change had no jurisdiction to make such rules that are contrary to the parent enactment and also beyond the rule-making power delegated to him, the PIL said.Therefore, the impugned provisions ultra vires the parent Act–the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960–they said. The sale of animals is a trade and business and every citizen has a right to carry on any occupation, trade or business, which is guaranteed under the Constitution. The right can be subjected to reasonable restriction by a law made by the competent legislature in the interest of public. The impugned provisions are in violation of the right to livelihood under the Constitution.

Further, the Supreme Court had in various cases held that the right to choice of food, be it non-vegetarian or vegetarian, is a part of the right to personal liberty , conscience and privacy .

By imposing a ban on slaughter of animals for food, the citizens with a choice to eat the flesh of such animals would be deprived of such food, which violates the right to food, privacy and personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution, the court said.

The Centre, on its part, said the government had brought the government had brought the rule in order to restrict the sale of cattle by considering all aspects. It also sought four weeks to reply to the cases and argued against stay of operation of the rules before they offer their reply .

But, the court said the matter should have been taken to the notice of the state government since the implementation of the rule lay with the state government.

It also said the subject matter was under concurrent list.While so, how could the cen tral government arbitrarily take the decision, asked the court, adding that no parliamentary nod too had been given to the rule. A prima facie case is made out in favour of the petitioner sides, warranting an interim stay, the court said.