Underlining that “facilitating the carrying of lawful activity, particularly that relating to food, food habits and vending thereof” is “undisputedly connected with the right to life and livelihood”, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has reminded the Uttar Pradesh government that in the course of its crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, it must not lose sight of the balance of “competing rights under the secular umbrella of the Constitution”. It has also said that “inaction of the state government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of almost prohibition”.
Issuing directions Monday on a plea by Saeed Ahmad who said he had a valid licence to sell goat meat in Lakhimpur Kheri but it was not being renewed in view of the drive against illegal slaughterhouses across the state, Justices Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Sanjay Harkauli said: “Health, culture, personal food habits, socio-economic status of society, availability of foodstuff at affordable prices, the convenience of availability, contents, quality and strength of foodstuff essential to life, and a balance of such competing rights under the secular umbrella of the Constitution are all issues that need deliberation before any overt or covert action is taken. It should not appear to be abrupt for those who are at the receiving end and should not be legally unconstitutional.”
“Food habits in this state have flourished and are an essential part of life as an element of the secular culture that has come to exist and is common amongst all sections of the society. Compliance of law should not end in deprivation, the cause whereof may be attributable to the inaction of the state… We have put on record the above indicators so that the state while taking decisions does not lose sight of the dimensions and repercussions of the consequences that are likely to follow and affect the public at large. This will also aid the state in informing the court about the measures it proposes to take in this regard,” the judges said.
“The inaction of the state government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of almost prohibition. To provide an immediate check on unlawful activity should be simultaneous with facilitating the carrying of lawful activity, particularly that relating to food, food habits and vending thereof that is undisputedly connected with the right to life and livelihood. Food that is conducive to health cannot be treated as a wrong choice and it is for this reason that provisions are obligated on the state to be made available for maintaining the requirement of supply of healthy foodstuff,” the bench said.
The judges directed the Lakhimpur Kheri Nagar Palika Parishad to consider Saeed Ahmad’s request for “grant of renewal of his existing licence and pass an appropriate order within one week” and “inform the court about the same by filing an appropriate affidavit”.