Cattle trading: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 


Doubt with Supreme Court: if they can override animal cruelty Act.

Current Issue

One of the primary questions the Supreme Court will have to settle when it starts hearing the challenge to the government’s new notifications banning the sale and trade of cattle in livestock markets for slaughter and animal sacrifices is whether these rules override the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Prohibition of cow slaughter finds a place in the Constitution, but not as an enforceable fundamental right.
  • It is included as a “Directive Principle of State Policy”, which is meant to guide the state in policymaking, but cannot be enforced in any court.
  • This Directive Principle (Article 48 of the Constitution) has excluded the question of religious sentiments.
  • Article 48 states: “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 

  • ThePrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1960 to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and to amend the laws relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  • As per the provisions of the law thegovernment of India formed the Animal Welfare Board of India.
  • The act however makes a provision under heading “Saving as respects manner of killing prescribed by religion”. Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.

What has the Supreme Court said?

  • The Supreme Court has consistently said that rules that contravene or rewrite the parent law, in this case the 1960 Act, should be rendered invalid for arbitrariness and unreasonableness.
  • However, the burden to disprove the presumption that these rules are constitutional and valid lies with the petitioner.
  • The petitioner has to prove that the government lacked legislative competence to make the subordinate legislation. That the rules are a violation of the guaranteed fundamental and constitutional rights.
  • The petitioner has to prove that there was a failure on the part of the Centre to conform to the 1960 Act and the rules are repugnant to the laws of the land.
  • The court said: “Where a Rule is directly inconsistent with a mandatory provision of the statute, then of course the task of the court is simple and easy.
  • But where the contention is that the inconsistency or non-conformity of the Rule is not with reference to any specific provision of the enabling Act, but with the object and scheme of the Parent Act, the court should proceed with caution before declaring invalidity”.
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