Selvagomathy, Managing Trustee of Justice Shivaraj V. Patil Foundation for Social Legal Education and Development, a non-governmental organisation based in Madurai, took centre stage on Tuesday by filing a public interest litigation petition in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court and obtaining an interim stay on the statutory rules framed by the Centre banning the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets. The Hindu caught up with the 45-year-old lawyer-cum-activist for an interview after the order was passed. Excerpts:
Q: What prompted to you to file the case?
A: I have been involved in social activities for the last 20 years. My work has revolved mostly around upholding of human rights. When the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulations of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017 were notified by the Centre on May 23, the first thing that struck my mind was that they were in violation of not only the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution but also the basic human rights. That is the reason I decided to file a suit challenging the rules.
Q: How do you say that the rules violate human rights? Can you elaborate?
A: I see the rules as a violation of the rights of the Dalits and the minority communities who are used to consuming meat. They also violate the rights of others who prefer to eat non-vegetarian food and those who sacrifice animals as part of religious practices. Imposing a curb on such practices is nothing but violation of human rights.
Q: Do you consider this interim order a success?
A: I see it as a big victory against the unrest created across the nation due to the ban on sale of animals for slaughter. This order will prevent conflict between people who are involved in such a trade and those who are bent upon preventing it. Officials have already begun to implement the rules in many parts of the country by preventing the traders from selling cattle in the market. This order will put a full stop to such practices.
Q: How have you planned to take this case forward?
A: I shall fight the case till its logical end. It will be better if the Central government itself comes forward to repeal the rules. Otherwise, my lawyers would pursue the case with all earnestness and see to it that the rules are declared null and void.
Q: What is your answer to critics who ask you whether killing of animals is an acceptable practice?
A: You may not believe if I say that I am a pure vegetarian by choice. I do not even consume eggs but my philosophy is that the choice of food should be left to the individuals and not forced upon them. If forcing a vegetarian like me to eat meat amounts to perpetrating violence against me, then forcing the non-vegetarians to become vegetarians also should be considered as perpetrating violence against them. Every human being has a right to follow his/her religious and cultural practices.