The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed the central government’s new notification banning the sale of cattle at animal markets for slaughter. It had agreed to an urgent hearing of a plea against the new rules.

The petition, filed by S Selva Gomathy and Asish Ilaki Baba, challenged the Constitutional validity of the new rules, under which cattle sold in animal markets can only be used for agricultural and such purposes. The plea argued that the government cannot enforce such a ban based on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and that the new rules went against the Constitution’s Right to Freedom of Religion and the Protection of Interests of Minorities, The News Minute reported.

The division bench comprising Justices MV Muralidaran and CV Karthikeyan ordered that the notification not be implemented for four weeks, and asked the Centre to reply to its notice. It said it was an individual’s right to choose their food.

On May 26, the Centre had issued new rules that require cattle traders to give an undertaking that the animals being sold at markets would only be used for agricultural purposes. Several states have massively criticised the notification, including Kerala, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh, among others.