Observing that the state putting sudden restrictions on the citizens’ eating habits is not correct, the Bombay High Court on Monday stayed the ban announced by the Maharashtra government on sale of meat on September 17 in Mumbai. The ban on slaughter of animals was announced in deference to the ongoing Jain festival of Paryushan. The city’s abattoir will, however, remain shut on September 17.
The court clarified that “the stay is not related to the request made by the government to people not to eat meat, the stay is only on the sale of meat on September 17.”
The municipal corporation had announced a two-day ban on slaughter of animals and another two-day ban was announced by the state government. Following an outcry, the BMC withdrew its two-day ban. The first day of the ban by the state was already observed on September 10. The Bombay Mutton Dealers’ Association had moved a petition to lift the ban on September 17 as well.
The court said that several other issues related to the ban will be considered during the final hearing. They include whether a representation made by a religious group practising vegetarianism is sufficient to declare a ban on sale of meat and closure of abattoirs; whether before declaring such bans, the concerned parties need to be given a hearing; whether such action amounts to discrimination between religions and whether sentiments of a particular community practising non-violence can be restricted to slaughter of goats and chicken, but not include fish and eggs.
The court will also consider if such a ban is correct in a metropolitan or cosmopolitan city and if it amounts to violation of fundamental rights.
Even as the government argued against the stay, the court pointed out that there was no consistency in implementation of the ban.
“The position is that there is a ban since 2004. But it has not been implemented consistently as far as the ban on sale is concerned. BMC never insisted on this (ban on sale of meat), but only insisted on closure of abattoirs,” said a bench of justices Anoop Mohta and S S Sayed.
Advocate General Anil Singh said revoking the ban on sale of meat would have a far-reaching effect.
The court said the decision was based on a point of law and “not based on sentiments or politics.” The court also questioned the government’s stand that the ban was based on Ahimsa (non-violence), a practice followed by the Jain community.
Justice Mohta said, “How can the ban be restricted to two products and not others?” The restrictions were only on mutton and chicken, not on fish and other seafood, and eggs. Singh said that a policy could not be struck down based on this.
The bench said the government should inform the public in advance about such decisions.
The court posted the petition for final hearing after four weeks.
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