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SC asks Centre to withdraw or amend 2017 rules on confiscating animals during trial

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday 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, saying they are contrary to the law. The top court said the rules will be stayed if not withdrawn or amended by the Centre as the law provides that animals can be confiscated only if a person is convicted under the Act.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that animals are a source of livelihood for the people concerned.

The bench told Additional Solicitor General Jayant K Sud, appearing for the Centre, that the government cannot confiscate the cattle and keep it before a person is convicted.

At the outset, Sud informed the bench that the 2017 rules have been notified.

The bench said: “Animals are source of livelihood. We are not talking about pet dogs and cats. People live on the basis of their animals. You can’t confiscate them and keep them before the man is convicted. Your rules are contrary. You either withdraw it or we will stay it.”

Sud reiterated that the rules have been notified as atrocities were being committed on animals.

The bench said, “We are trying to tell you that the section is very clear that only the person who is convicted can lose the animal. You either amend the rule or we will stay it. We cannot have a situation where the rule is running contrary to the express provision of the Act”.

The ASG urged the court to post the matter for further hearing in next week to enable him seek instructions on the matter.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 11.

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 had on August 17 last year asked Sud to make a statement about the notification of the Rules in question.

On July 2, 2019, the top court had sought response from the Centre on a plea of Buffalo Traders Welfare Association challenging the constitutional validity of the rules of 2017.

The traders have claimed that they were being forcibly deprived of their cattle which is sent to ‘Gaushalas‘, and the seizure of their livestock that is a means of livelihood for many families was being done under the 2017 rules.

The association alleged that the 2017 rules have travelled beyond the limits of the 1960 Act.

“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 polarisation of society, and if not halted effectively and immediately, will have disastrous consequences on the social fabric of the country,” the plea of the association said.

The 2017 rules allow a magistrate to forfeit the cattle of an owner facing trial under the Act and the animals are later sent to infirmaries, ‘gaushalas’ and ‘pinjarapole’ and offered for adoption.

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