SC adjourns hearing in plea challenging provisions under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing for next week in a plea filed by Buffalo Traders Welfare Association challenging the validity of certain provisions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde adjourned the hearing and said that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017, which allows seizure and of animals, including cattle, before the conviction of owner is in “dissonance” with Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

At the outset, the Bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre, “What are you going to do about the rules.”

“We told you the last time that rules are in dissonance with the sections. The animals are the source of livelihood for people. The section is clear that only after the conviction that animals can be taken away. The rules permit to take away animals even before conviction,” the Bench observed.

The Solicitor General pointed out a distinction between ‘confiscation’ and ‘seizure’ and added that the petitioner has confused between confiscation seizure.

Mehta further said that a detailed reply has been filed in the plea. The top court then said it will hear the matter next week.

The Bench further observed that the sale of animals is something that is not injurious to animals, selling doesn’t mean they are getting injured.

“We are talking of the situation where animals are taken away from the possession of the rightful owner and confiscated and are not taken care of. There is a difference between sale and seizure,” the Bench added.

Last week, the top court had observed that animals are normally the source of livelihood and they can’t be confiscated.

“Animals are normally, not cats and dogs but others are a source of livelihood. You can’t confiscate them. Your rules are contradictory. You either change it or we will stay it,” the Bench had told the Centre.

Earlier, the apex court had sought the central government’s response on a plea filed by Buffalo Traders Welfare Association challenging the validity of 2017 Rules which allow authorities to seize vehicles used in cattle transportation and send the animals to gaushalas or cow shelters.

The petition, filed by advocate Sanobar Ali Qureshi, challenged the notification, particularly Rule 3, 5, 8, and 9, which permits the forfeitures of the animals and send the animals to Gaushala, Pinjrapole or infirmary if the owner pleads guilty or is convicted under the act.

The petition said the notification issued on May 23, 2017, on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 be declared as “ultra vires and unconstitutional”.

According to the act, “If the accused is convicted, or pleads guilty, the magistrate shall deprive him of the ownership of the animals and forfeit the seized animal to the infirmary, pinjrapole, SPCA, Animal Welfare Organisation or Gaushala already having custody for proper adoption or other disposition.”

The petition said that the transporters, cattle traders, and farmers are facing threats due to anti-social elements since the notification of the impugned rules.

“This results in frequent lootings of the animals. It is pertinent to mention that these frequent lootings are also threatening the rule of law and generally emboldening groups of persons to take the law into their own hands. Moreover, these incidents are acting as triggers for communal polarization of the society, and if not halted effectively and immediately will have disastrous consequences on the social fabric of the country,” the plea added.

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