Background:

In 2014, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi asking the Court to direct the Government of India and various border states of India to take steps to prevent illegal trafficking of cattle to Nepal. Large scale trafficking of cattle to Nepal was taking place for sacrifice as part of the Gadhimai Festival held annually.

The Supreme Court heard the matter over nearly 2 years and passed several orders. The core of the matter, with a nudge from the 2-judge bench, was to be settled through an agreement between the central government and the governments of the states of Bihar, West Bengal, UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh.

With the Supreme Court’s direction and approval, a Committee was setup under the chairmanship of Sri Banshi Dhar Sharma, DG, Sahastra Seema Bal and a report with steps to address this problem was submitted to the court. The Supreme Court accepted this report fully and directed the central government and state government to take steps towards compliance.

This order was passed on 13/07/2015.

Each state government, in addition to several other steps, had to do the following:

  • Constitute a district SPCA, within 4 weeks
  • Constitute Animal Welfare Boards, within 4 weeks
  • Submit a compliance report to the Court, within 8 weeks

As part of the same committee report, accepted by the Court, the Central Government had to frame rules under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, specifically to ensure reduction in cruelty to animals in livestock markets, sale, etc.

On the 4th of July 2016, the Supreme Court passed an order confirming the receipt of compliance reports by all concerned states. The bench noted that the Center had not yet complied with its direction to frame and notify rules.

The GOI responded that it is bound to frame the rules as per the directions of the Court, and would do so soon. The matter was posted for 12/07/2016.

On the 12th of July 2016, the SC disposed of the case under the following directions.

  • The central government, which had informed the court that draft rules were almost ready, should finalize the rules *within three months*.
  • The central government would convene meetings between itself and the various stakeholder states to arrive at a comprehensive future plan to resolve this problem.

Notification of Regulation of Livestock Market Rules:

As per the orders of the Supreme Court, as highlighted above, the Government of India framed the rules for governing livestock markets, placed it for review and feedback, and in the end notified the rules (with finalization based on feedback inputs) on the 23rd of May 2017.

Aim of notification:

Based on the SSB led Committee report submitted to the Supreme Court, and the directions of the Court, the Government of India decided to modify the structure of the sale of livestock. Quoting the official press release itself.

“The livestock markets are intended to become hubs for trade for animal for agriculture through this process and animal for slaughter will have to be bought from the farmers at the farms

To obtain better control over the whole process of cattle trade, the following 2 decisions have been taken.

  1. Livestock markets will now be dedicated for trading of animals for agriculture
  2. Animal purchases for slaughter will have to happen from farmers directly

Some key Q & A:

  • Has purchase of cattle for slaughter been banned by this notification?
    • No.
    • Livestock markets, though, are no longer the place for purchase of cattle for animal slaughter.
  • Have state governments lost their power in framing rules governing cattle sale for slaughter?
    • No. Under section 38 of the PCA, the central government has now *redefined some aspects of the business model* for purchase of animals for agriculture and slaughter. The rules regarding what cattle to purchase, what is not allowed to be purchased for slaughter, where to slaughter, how to slaughter, etc will all be completely decided by the respective state governments.
  • Has legal purchase of cattle been banned?
    • No.
  • Has the process of legal purchase of cattle for slaughter become difficult?
    • IMHO, yes.
  • Many news articles are claiming that the notification was issued by the Government in a surprise move, and in a hurry. Is this true?
    • No. The move by the center was due to the directions of the SC. Further, the deadline for implementing this was October 2016 whereas it became a reality only in May 2017.
  • Could the whole process of coming up with guidelines have been better executed?
    • (Again, just my opinion) YES. At least definitely on the communication and media management side.
  • Were the states kept in dark about the whole process?
    • At least all the states with international borders were fully aware of the developments. West Bengal, which is now protesting the move, was also fully aware.

References:

  1. Rules on prevention of cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) to ensure welfare of Animals & Protect Animals from Cruelty: Environment Ministry
  2. Press release related to the notification – dated 27th May 2017
  3. Supreme Court – Interim orders and final judgement – WP/881/2014
  4. Supreme Court – Interim orders – WP/210/2015
  5. Cattle trafficking: Supreme Court asks Centre to frame rules in 3 months

 

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