The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to amend a rule in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that pertains to the confiscation of animals before the accused is convicted under the legislation, Bar and Bench reported.

“Animals are normally, not cats and dogs, but others are a source of livelihood,” the court said, according to ANI. “You can’t confiscate them. Your rules are contradictory.”

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that Section 29 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that animals can only be confiscated if the person involved is convicted, adding that the rules cannot run contrary to the express intention of the Act.

The Bench said that if the Centre will not change or withdraw the rules, the court will put a stay on it. Additional Solicitor General Jayant K Sud, appearing for the Centre, said that the 2017 rules have been notified and that people were committing atrocities against animals.

The court, however, asked the Centre not to point out such matters. “We cannot countenance a situation where the rules are running in contradiction to the objective of the Act,” the bench said. “Confiscation can only happen for the people who are convicted.”

The government is likely to file a short reply in the case listed for hearing on January 11.

The court made the observations during the hearing on a plea by Buffalo Traders Welfare Association, challenging the validity of 2017 rules that allow authorities to seize vehicles used in cattle transportation and send the animals to shelters. The authorities can further give such animals for “adoption”.

The petition pointed out that the transporters, farmers and cattle traders were being threatened since the rules were notified.

“This results in frequent lootings of the animals,” the plea said. “It is pertinent to mention that these frequent lootings are also threatening the rule of law and generally emboldening groups of persons to take the law into their own hands. Moreover, these incidents are acting as triggers for communal polarisation of the society, and if not halted effectively and immediately will have disastrous consequences on the social fabric of the country.”