NEW DELHI – India's top court on Tuesday stayed for three months a ban introduced by the Hindu nationalist government on the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter.
The Supreme Court approved a lower court ruling that said people have a basic right to choose their food.
The court is expected to give a final ruling after the federal government reconsiders the issue in view of widespread criticism of its decision announced in May.
The government informed Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Tuesday that it was re-examining the ban and would bring in necessary changes by the end of August, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Under government rules issued in May, buyers and sellers at cattle markets or animal fairs would be required to pledge in writing that cows and other animals considered holy by Hindus would not be slaughtered for food or any other purpose. Cattle for slaughter would have to be bought from farmers directly.
The Supreme Court decision Tuesday is a reprieve for state governments that criticized the ban as a blow for beef and leather exports that would leave hundreds of thousands jobless and deprive millions of Christians, Muslims and poor Hindus of a cheap source of protein.
Attorney Kapil Sabil, representing India's Meat Exporters Association, told the top court that there was fear and phobia among cattle traders over the government ban.
Hindus account for 80 percent of India's 1.3 billion people. In many Indian states, the slaughtering of cows and selling of beef is banned.