Centre to withdraw ban on sale of cattle for slaughter

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre has decided to withdraw its controversial 25 May notification that prohibited the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets across the country.

The controversial notification, issued by the union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, said that nobody can bring cattle to an animal market unless he or she has furnished a written declaration that the cattle will not be sold for slaughter.

While there seems to be no official word on the rollback, it was widely reported as being confirmed. The move comes after the ministry sought feedback from states on its 23 May notification on changes made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017.

The notification sparked an outcry across the country, with critics of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government accusing it of imposing its Hindu ideology on the country. The issue was exacerbated by several instances of harassment and assault by cow-protection groups were reported from various parts of the country.

The move had dealt a severe blow to the leather industry, earlier one of India's few bright export sectors.

It is also curious that the original notification was issued by the environment ministry. One might wonder what banning cow slaughter has to do with protecting the environment – which in India should be a full-time job.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was among those who slammed the Centre for its notification. The Trinamool Congress chief called the notification undemocratic and unconstitutional.

Several parts of the country also saw protests being held against the notification. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka were among ther states where the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter was severally opposed.

In June, environment minister Harsh Vardhan had suggested the government was open to rescinding its controversial notification. The minister said cattle slaughter or the sale of cattle for slaughter was not a prestige issue for his government that the government would be reviewing suggestions it had then received over the notification.

The matter soon reached the courts, with an interesting twist after the Madras and Kerala High Courts issued differing orders. While the Madras High Court stayed the implementation of the government's notification at the end of May, the Kerala justices refused to intervene in the matter.

The notification then reached the Supreme Court, which in July ruled that the Madras High Court's stay on the government's notification was operational.

Notably, during arguments in Supreme Court, the centre said it was not seeking a modification of the Madras High Court order.