New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday told the Centre that rules notified in 2017 for confiscating animals of traders and transporters would be stayed if not either withdrawn or amended.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian asked the Centre to either withdraw or amend rules notified in 2017 for confiscating animals of traders and transporters during the pendency of trial in cases under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The top court observed that the rules are contrary to the law, and insisted that the court would stay them.
The law provides that animals can be confiscated only if the owner is convicted under the Act. The court told the Centre’s counsel that it cannot confiscate animals and keep them before the owner is convicted. “Your rules are contrary. You either withdraw it or we will stay it,” noted the bench.
A plea by traders’ associations have claimed the seizure of their livestock, which supports livelihood of their families, was being done under the 2017 rules. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, were notified on May 23, 2017.
The top court emphasised that the animals are a source of livelihood for the people concerned. “Animals are a source of livelihood. We are not talking about pet dogs and cats. People live on the basis of their animals,” said the bench.
Additional Solicitor General Jayant K. Sud, representing Centre, at the beginning of the hearing submitted before the bench that the 2017 rules have been notified. The bench replied the government cannot confiscate the cattle and keep them before a person is convicted.
Citing atrocities on animals, Sud submitted that the rules have been notified. The bench replied the rules are clear that only the person who is convicted can lose the animal. “We cannot have a situation where the rule is running contrary to the express provision of the Act,” said the bench.
The bench scheduled the matter for further hearing on January 11, after Sud sought time to allow him to take instructions in the matter.
The Buffalo Traders Welfare Association had moved the top court challenging the constitutional validity of these rules. The traders have claimed they were being forcibly deprived of their cattle which are sent to ‘gaushalas’. In July 2019, the apex court had asked for the Centre’s response on the traders’ plea.
The magistrate under the 2017 rules can forfeit the cattle of an owner facing trial under the Act. Later, the animals are sent to ‘gaushalas’ and offered for adoption.
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