New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended to all of India the Madras high court order that put on hold the Centre’s notification banning sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter, a move that had triggered howls of protest.
The new law, which was announced on May 25 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in Delhi, had placed a nationwide ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets, allowing cattle trade only for plowing and dairy production.
The opposition parties and activists had accused the government of pushing a beef ban through the back door in keeping with the BJP’s Hindutva agenda.
The officials had cited animal cruelty and unregulated animal trade as reasons behind the ban, while critics believed the ban to be "unconstitutional" as it endangered the livelihood of millions of Indians employed in the cattle-related industries.
The Supreme Court, in issuing its decision, stressed the hardship that the ban on the trade of cattle for slaughter had imposed.
"The livelihood of people should not be affected by this," Supreme Court Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar said in his ruling.
“Needless to say that the interim direction issued by the Madurai bench of the Madras high court shall continue and extend to the entire country,” the bench said.
Cow slaughter ban has been in place in most Indian states for decades, with violations ranging from a fine of few thousands Indian rupees to life imprisonment.
The slaughter of bulls, bullocks and buffalo is legal in several states, though the latest federal law would have prohibited trade of all types of cattle for slaughter.
Several states, including those that allow cattle slaughter, had opposed the ban in May.