The Delhi High Court sought the Centre's response on Wednesday on a plea challenging the Animal Birth Control Rules, 2023, which exclude registered veterinary doctors and officers from participating in the process of immunisation, vaccination and birth control of various animals.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying on the petition filed by three veterinary doctors.
The court asked the ministry to file its response within four weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on August 28.
The petitioners -- Dr Anubhav Khajuria, Dr Simranjeet Singh and Dr Naveen -- have stated in their petition that they are challenging the legality and constitutionality of Rules 3, 5, 6 and 8 of the Animal Birth Control (ABC) Rules, 2023, as notified by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying on March 10.
The plea, filed through advocate Abhikalp Pratap Singh, says through these rules, titled as "Project Recognition", the duly registered veterinary doctors and officers have been excluded from participating in the process and occupation of immunisation, vaccination and birth control of various animals, especially dogs and cats.
"Through the said rules, only certain NGOs disguised as animal welfare organisations (AWOs) have been made eligible and entitled for participating in the said activity," the plea says.
The plea has sought the quashing of certain provisions of the ABC Rules as ultra vires Articles 14 (equality before law), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (protection of life and liberty) of the Constitution.
It has said participation in the exercise of animal birth control, immunisation and sterilisation at the mass level is a part of the occupation of a registered veterinary doctor, constituting a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and it can be curtailed or restricted only by way of "reasonable restrictions".
The rule exclusively entitling NGOs for the activity fails to meet the triple test of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and thus, is liable to be struck down, the plea has said.
The petitioners have said previously, in adherence to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules of 2001, various municipal councils had issued tenders inviting recognised NGOs, AWOs and private veterinary practitioners to participate in the animal birth control programme, and numerous private veterinary practitioners had submitted their bids and were subsequently declared as successful bidders.
"This allowed them to enter into agreements with state municipal councils regarding the sterilisation of dogs and bitches. For decades, private veterinary doctors have carried out immunisation and sterilisation of street dogs and thus, contributed towards reducing the cruelty inflicted upon animals.
"They have built-up facilities, practices and procedures and have undergone extensive training for the same. Given the tremendous and uncontrolled growth of the street dog population, it is the need of the hour to include a larger workforce to help control the menace, which becomes a risk to the overall health and well-being of the dogs and the society," the plea has said.
It has added that it is inexplicable why the ability to sterilise and immunise street dogs has been taken away from private individual veterinary doctors, adversely affecting their right to livelihood while jeopardising the object and purpose of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
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