A four-day ban on meat in deference of the Jain festival of Paryushan was not an apt formula for a city like Mumbai, the Bombay High Court said Thursday.
Questioning the ban on slaughter of animals and sale of meat in Mumbai for four days, the court said, “How can you stop sale? Will the police and the municipal officers enter houses and say meat can’t be eaten?”
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Thursday was the first of the four days of the ban in the eight-day Paryushan period as decided by the BMC and the state government.
“You cannot have this formula for a modern city like Mumbai,” the court observed. It was hearing a petition challenging the ban filed by the Bombay Mutton Dealers’ Association.
The petition has said that the ban favoured a small percentage of the population and was against the secular fabric of the Constitution.
Justices Anoop Mohta and S S Sayed said, “The sentiment of banning sale of meat appears to be because of visualisation… There can be adjustments and restrictions.”
The HC asked the state government and the BMC to inform whether there was a ban on sale as well as closure of abattoir in the previous years too. The court will hear the matter again Friday.
The association had claimed that in the previous years, the ban was limited to slaughtering of animals for two days during the Paryushan period. The petitioners’ lawyer Zubin Kamdin said the ban on sale was being additionally imposed for the first time this year. “There is a Hitler-like regime and the police is doing the rounds and asking shops to shut down,” alleged Kamdin.
The court also sought clarification on whether chicken could be sold as poultry was not slaughtered in the Deonar abattoir. “What is the particular sentiment towards mutton, considering the sale of fish and eggs was allowed,” the HC also sought to know.
Advocate General Anil Singh replied circulars had been issued every year since 2004 on the ban of mutton and the court then asked the government and the BMC whether mutton procured from sources other than the civic-run abattoir was also banned. “There is a total ban on abattoir and sale. Hotels cannot purchase meat on such days. The ban is for a few days and makes no difference. It is not a violation of fundamental rights,” Singh said.
The four-day ban follows a demand made by the Ahimsa Sangh Vishwamaitri Trust.
The BMC said it had issued a circular, directing the Deonar abattoir to remain closed on September 10, 13, 17 and 18. Two of these days were selected based on a 1964 BMC resolution and two on account of the state’s 2004 resolution. “The ban on September 10 and 17 is applicable throughout Maharashtra,” said Narendra Walavalkar, senior counsel appearing for BMC. He said the ban for the other two days, September 13 and 18, was on account of the BMC’s resolution and applied only to Mumbai.
The court then questioned whether the BMC had the permission of the government to impose a two-day ban. “Is it according to law?” asked the court.
The petitioners have sought interim relief against the ban, but the court said it would give time to the government authorities to file a reply.