A monthly cattle market near Mundakayam in Kerala’s Kottayam district. Photo: The Hindu

As the whole nation debated the merits of the central government’s decision to outlaw the sale of cattle for slaughter, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court stayed the ban on Tuesday.

An interim order to this effect was issued on Tuesday by a division bench comprising Justice M V Muralidharan and Justice CV Karthikeyan, in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Selvagomathi and Asik Elahi Baba, according to reports.

According to the Times of India, the PIL stated that choice of food is an individual’s right and no one has the right to dictate what other people consume. In response to this, the central government’s counsel argued that the notification had been issued only to regulate the animal markets.

The division bench of the court, which issues notices, has given state and central governments four weeks to reply.

On May 23, the central government passed a notification seeking to regulate the sale of bovines at cattle markets. The order prohibited the sale of animals meant for slaughter. Cows, bulls, buffaloes, calves and camels are included in the list of animals that are banned for sale at cattle markets.

The decision has evoked strong reactions across the country, with many “beef fests” being organized in opposition to it.