Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday sent a letter to all fellow chief ministers, calling on them to oppose the new cattle slaughter rules issued by the Centre which bans the sale of cattle meant for slaughter at animal markets around the country. In his letter, Vijayan calls the new rules “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular,” and calls on chief ministers to assert their federal rights as the rules are an “impermissible encroachment into the domain of the State.”

The new rules, which were issued last week, prohibit the trade of cattle meant for slaughter at open markets, a move that many said would lead to an effective ban on cattle slaughter for much of the country, even though the government insists that is not its objective. Analysts have argued that the rules go beyond the objectives laid out in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, under which they are framed, an argument that Vijayan too makes in his letter.

Vijayan had already written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to take back the rules, saying they would have a severe impact on the rural economy, while protests were held across Kerala against an act that many saw as the Centre imposing its anti-beef morals.

On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too said that she would be challenging the rules in court, insisting that they are unconstitutional. The Karnataka government has suggested that it will do the same.

Below is the full text of Vijayan’s letter to the other chief ministers, which he also posted on his Facebook page.

I am sure that you are already conversant with the Notification containing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 23rd May, 2017. The Rules impose a number of restriction on cattle trade which would have serious repercussions on the livelihood of millions of people, especially those in the agricultural sector, in our country.

It appears strange that the Rules are promulgated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 since they have nothing to do with the objects of the Act. Neither are the Rules covered by the express delegation of legislative powers contained in the Act. Hence it is nothing but a covert attempt to usurp the powers of State legislatures in the guise of rules under a Central Act. The subjects covered by the Rules belong to entries 15 and 18 of the State List in the Constitution. This impermissible encroachment into the domain of the State Legislatures is a clear violation of the spirit of federalism, which is acclaimed as one of the basic features of the constitution..

The Rules, by imposing unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution, will not stand the test of constitutionality. They also violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food.

It is rather unfortunate that such a drastic measure, producing serious consequences, was introduced in exercise of the rule making power, surpassing the elected representatives of the people and avoiding any public debate. This is nothing but a negation of the democratic principle, which is indisputably accepted as forming part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Apart from the Constitutional and legal infirmities of the Rules, the disastrous consequences which are likely to arise if these Rules are brought into force make one shudder. It will definitely produce a chaotic situation in the rural agricultural economy in all the States.

Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal democratic fabric and secular culture of our country. I would therefore fervently appeal to you to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to the Prime Minister, and to request him to withdraw the Rules introduced without any consultation with the States. Since the matters dealt within the Rules squarely fall within the purview of State Legislatures, the State Governments may be allowed to formulate necessary policies and laws to suit the socio-cultural and economic milieu of the State.

I have already brought these matters to the kind attention of the Prime Minister in a letter dated May 27th, 2017. A copy of the letter is attached for your kind perusal.