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A petition was filed before the Telangana High Court regarding the inaction of the Respondents in connection with the illegal transportation of camels into the State and their consequent slaughtering.
The Petitioner has prayed for a writ of Mandamus, directing the Union to ensure strict compliance of the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (hereinafter after referred to as “the Act, 1960”) and the relevant rules framed thereunder.
The Court has given an interim order before hearing the case on merits. In the interim order, Respondents have been directed to inspect slaughterhouses in the twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad and Ranga Reddy District, to take strict action against those who are violating the laws, and to prevent the illegal killing of camels in the aforementioned areas.
Further, they have been directed to publicize the fact that the transportation and slaughtering of camels is an illegal activity, through electronic and print media. In this article, the author will discuss the legal provisions involved, the interim order, and its ramifications.
What are the facts of this issue?
During Ramadan, there is a tradition of consumption of camel meat in the State of Telangana. As a result of which camels are illegally (allegedly) transported from Rajasthan to the State and slaughtered.
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However, prohibition is placed on the transportation of camels outside of Rajasthan by the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 2015 (hereinafter after referred to as “the Act, 2015”).
Since the acts amount to cruelty, under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Rules made thereunder, the Respondents are duty-bound to protect the interests of the animal.
The Petitioner further submits that since during 2013 to 2017, only seven cases were registered against owners of slaughterhouses where camels were found to be slaughtered, though it has trickled down to zero after 2017.
There is laxity as the Core Committee, constituted by the Animal Husbandry Department on 19.04.2020 and the State Animal Welfare Board are absolutely dysfunctional.
The Respondents contend that the concerned authorities have taken proactive measures to inspect the licensed and unlicensed slaughtering houses functioning in the twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad, and Ranga Reddy District.
What are the relevant legal provisions?
Article 21 read with Article 51A (g), and Sections 3 & 11 of the Act, 1960 make it clear that animals are guaranteed the rights to be treated with compassion, dignity, and to be free from unnecessary pain and suffering. This is the constitutional mandate. In lieu of the same, we have the Act, 1960 and other allied statutes.
Now, the Act, 2015 states that no camel could be transported to any other State for any purpose, including slaughter. Illegally transporting the camels and slaughtering them is an offense punishable under Sections 4 and 3 of the Act, 2015.
In Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja and Ors (2014 (7) SCC 547), the Supreme Court held that animals have the right to live with dignity and security. Clearly, illegally transporting camels and slaughtering them is a thorn to the many decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
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Section 11 (1)(d) states that if any person conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering he shall be punishable, in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with both.
Let us analyse this situation…
The decision faces the issue of transgressing into the religious arena as the killing of animals for consumption is an exempted ground under the Act, 2015.
Also, petitions are lying before the Hon’ble Supreme Court contending that laws that prohibit propitiation of deity through the sacrifice of animals and birds violate Article 14, which is the right to equality.
Previously also the Hon’ble Supreme Court has refused to interfere in religious affairs and noted that the judiciary could not stop centuries-old traditions of sacrificing animals.
In the present case, there are two facets though; slaughtering camels brought from Rajasthan is illegal and punishable, however, camels that are brought from some other places, such as Gujarat, could be exempt from the scope of the instant case. However, the Court has not made any such distinction.
The decision to direct the respondent to ensure strict compliance with inspection and taking action against people who violate the law and bring the camels illegally into the State is one of the mechanisms through which people who violate the laws can be caught and punished.
The import of this order is that the Telangana government has now declared transportation and slaughter of camels to be a criminal offence and those caught doing it would be prosecuted and punished if found guilty.
The State Police has advised the public not to engage in activities such as transportation and illegal slaughtering of camels and sale of camel meat.
Further, they have advised the public to report any violations, through call (Dial 100) or Whatsapp (Number 9490617444) with the guarantee that the identity of the person who reports the violation, will be kept confidential.
Author: Sreyas T Manoj from The National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi, India.
Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.