The Bombay high court in some tough talking stopped the ban imposed by Maharashtra government on sale of meat on September 17 in Mumbai, during Paryushan, a period of fasting for Jains.
The HC however did not lift the ban on abattoirs on that day. The meat sale ban was lifted only for Mumbai though and will be implemented in the rest of the state.
The HC bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and Amjad Sayed came prepared with the order and said they have prepared and drafted several issues which will be heard and decided later.
The judges said, “We are with you on sentiments but are clear on law,” and added that the policy of the BMC which it said was not implemented consistently appeared illogical.
On Friday, the first victory for activists of fundamental rights and butchers came after a day-long civic and courtroom drama when the BMC which faced tough questions and criticism from the high court and the Shiv Sena did away with the restriction on slaughter and sale on September 13 and 18.
The BMC ban was in addition to the two days — September 10 and 17 — imposed on the entire state by the BJP government. The state and the BMC both drew its powers from a 2004 circular of the state that allowed for ban on slaughter at Deonar abattoir and on sale of meat on designated days during the Jain fast. The state advocate general Anil Singh had defended the two day ban as a “justified reasonable restriction” and said the BMC added its own days following an appeal made to it by the Jain community leaders on August 27.
The BMC counsel N V Walawalkar on Monday reargued the case for an hour. But to no avail. He had on Friday admitted that ban on meat sale was on only since last year, attempted to justify the ban by saying that shops need to be shut if the abattoir is shut, “to prevent sale of illegal meat which could be contaminated.”
The judges who since morning had been questioning the ban in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, said, “There is a progressive look to Mumbai. These are regressive steps.”
Justice Mohta said, “All these years you only banned slaughter not sale. How can you take this decision at the 11th hour? We understand the sentiment part. But Purchase is an independent choice… It could be from packaged meat?”
“Traders know to preserve their products. Technology is available in the market… Can you go beyond the directive of the State Government?” asked the judges to the BMC. They expressed their concern at the manner in which the ban was brought on, without any notice to the public. “What happens to small traders who have some left over meat?… You have selected only four days out of 9, the others you permit even the abattoir to function.”
On August 27, Vishwamaitri Trust – a Jain trust lead by two BJP MLAs Raj Purohit and Atul Bhatkhalkar and a few BJP corporators met the municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, seeking a ban on meat on all the eight days of Paryushan – just like it was imposed on September 4 this year in case of Mira-Bhayander. Following an uproar, the eight-day ban by Mira-Bhayandar however was revoked and only a two-day ban as decided by the state was implemented.
The ban in Mumbai had remained for four days prompting a petition by the Mutton Dealers Association to challenge its validity and the government’s intent. Counsel for the dealers Zubin Behram Kamdin had succinctly argued that the ban violated fundamental rights of equality and trade and cannot be invoked on a mere request from a particular community in defiance of Constitutional guarantees. The HC bench seemed to agree and said, “While a one or two-day ban appeared reasonable, why were two days added?”
It also asked the state why it was silent on the difference in number of ban days imposed by Mira Bhayandar civic body and BMC. “Should you not come out with a policy?” asked Justice Mohta who also questioned how “fish and eggs” were not banned? “Are they not non-veg?”
The BMC said ban on chicken was only added since 2014. The abattoir was shut however for one day during Paryushan since 1964 and a second day was added by a 1994 civic resolution. The HC allowed an intervention plea by a Trust to support the ban, poultry breeders welfare association and an advocate Ejaz Nakvi to oppose. Vikram Nankani for the poultry breeders said that Poultry is distinct from “animal” and “animal meat” as the state circular says cannot cover chicken.
Singh said, “Consumption is not banned. Meat in a refrigerator can be cooked. The ban is keeping in mind the principle of Ahimsa practiced by the Jains.”
The HC bench said, “Ultimately, there are various ways it can be regulated.
In this commercial world, an import export world, how can you prohibit sale? We have to change our attitude in view of globalisation.”
( Source – PTI )