THE All India Kisan Sabha has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court on June 28 for adequate protection to the cause of the farmers, agriculturists and cattle traders etc, representing all who are not in a position to approach the Supreme Court for protection of their rights guaranteed under the Constitution. A brief summary of the petition is given below:
That Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 is an Act to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. Section 38 of the said Act gives power to the government to make rules by notification in the Official Gazette and subject to the condition of previous publication, to carry out the purposes of this Act but Section 38 does not delegate any power to override or rewrite the provisions of the Parent Act. The impugned Rule, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 are made in exercise of the powers conferred under section 38 (1) of the Act and the impugned rules 8 (1) and (2) are inconsistent and overriding with the provisions of Section 29 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.
Animal markets are crucial nuclei of the production cycle of animals, through which animals pass from farmers to others and vice-versa. The impugned rules effectively choke the free movement of animals via the market space and, more critically, completely undermine the freedom and rights of farmers, traders and all others whose livelihoods are linked to this production cycle. The right of farmers to life and livelihood is at stake; their dairy livelihoods and bullock-based agricultural livelihoods stand to be completely destroyed with these impugned rules.
By the impugned provisions, a citizen has been deprived of his right to sell or purchase any animal under the definition of the term cattle under the impugned rules. The sale of cattle is a trade and business and every citizen has a right to carry on any occupation trade of business, which is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g) the Constitution of India. The said right can be subjected to reasonable restriction under Article 19(6) by a law made by the competent legislature in the interest of public or for providing professional or technical qualification or so as to monopolize either partly or completely in exclusion of the other citizens. Similarly by imposing a complete ban on the sale or slaughter of cattle subject matter of the rule irrespective of whether the animal is economically useful is a burdensome interference into the freedom of trade guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
The farmers and other traders involved in sale of cattle and other animals and slaughter houses and its employees would be gravely deprived of their right to livelihood as under the impugned regulations, the sale of animals for slaughter has been prohibited in any animal market while the definition of animal market under Rule 2(b) covers all places of sale and therefore by the impugned regulations, a complete ban has been imposed on the trade of sale or purchase of animals defined as cattle under Rule 2(e) of the Rules. Therefore, the impugned provisions are in violation of the right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The practices associated with religion or rites perceived by the community to be a part of worship, is an essential facade of religion, protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India. A right under Article 25 can be restricted on the grounds of public order morality and health or grounds enumerated under Article 25(2), only by a law made by the legislature and not by the delegated executive fiat having no backing of the enactment made by the legislature. As the impugned provisions have not been made either on the grounds of public order or morality or health or any justification of restriction provided under Article 25(2) and also the impugned provisions is not a legislature made law, the impugned provisions offend the right to freedom of religion and conscience.
The Constitution clearly demarcates the fields of legislation, for the Parliament and for the state legislatures in the 7th Schedule to the Constitution. It is relevant to note that, the fields of legislation, concerning markets and fairs and preservation or protection and improvement of stocks, falls, within entry 28 and 15 of the State list and thus it is only the State legislature, which is empowered to make laws on the said fields of legislation. The impugned regulations though have been framed in furtherance of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the impugned provisions and Rules, which tend to regulate live stock markets with an intention of preserving protecting and improving stocks, is in pith and substance, legislation on the fields earmarked for the state legislature. Thus the central government does not have competence to make Rules on a subject matter falling purely within the legislative domain of the state Legislature.
AIKS considers cattle protection not as an issue of religious belief but an agrarian issue having severe implication on peasant economy. It feels that the Supreme Court must act on an urgent basis to address the extraordinary situation and ensure rule of law will prevail under which farmers and other dependants on cattle for livelihood are guaranteed their fundamental rights.
Advocate Subhash Chandran will represent AIKS in the Supreme Court.