The controversial and much debated ban on the sale of meat in Mumbai has been stayed by the Bombay High Court Monday afternoon. The Mumbai municipal body had earlier imposed ban on the sale of meat in connection with the Jain community’s fasting season “Paryushan”. The High Court, while ordering the stay on the ban, sought to know from the authorities that why the restriction is only on mutton and chicken and not on fish and eggs.
“If it is a question of practice of non-violence by the Jain community, then why only mutton and chicken have been included in the ban and not fish and eggs?” the High Court division bench remarked.
The issue reached Bombay High Court last week after the city meat sellers’ body moved a plea challenging the ban. While passing orders, the division bench of Justice Anoop V Mohta and Justice Amjad Sayyed also questioned why the Jain community wants to practice non-violence only on some days.
“You (Jains) do not have a problem if slaughter of animals is done on some days. If ahimsa (non violence) is on your mind, then why this alternate day permission?” the court asked.
The issue has off-late kicked up a political storm with questions being raised on intrusion into eating habits of people. Earlier, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) had announced ban on the sale of meat and closure of abattoirs for September 13 and 18. The BJP-Shiv Sena run Maharashtra state government too had banned it further for September 10 and 17. But after protest and fissures within the BJP and Shiv Sena, the civic body decided to withdrew the ban last week.
During the course of arguments, the High Court bench also cited out inconsistencies in the stands of MCGM and the state government.
“Although the circular was of 2004, we are very clear that the MCGM never fully implemented the ban on sale of meat. It never insisted on this (ban on sale of meat), but only insisted on closure of abattoirs,” the court said referring to the state government’s September 7, 2004 circular stating the closure of abattoirs and ban on slaughter and sale of meat for two days during the ‘Paryushan’ festival.
“We are only going by the law and not dealing with this matter via sentiments and political things,” the bench observed.
The issue has also brought long term allies – BJP and Shiv Sena – on the crossroads. Shiv Sena, which is the dominant ruling partner in MCGM, had opposed the ban even as its partner BJP continues to support the ban. The cadres and workers of Shiv Sena as well as Maharashtra Navnirmal Sena (MNS) and the NCP had hit the street on September 10 protesting against the ban. In an interesting move, the party cadres also brought in moving kiosks to sell meat and chicken out on the streets.
Posting the final hearing of the petition after four weeks, the High Court refused to intervene on the issue of ban on the slaugther and closure of abattoirs on the day in question. The court also made it clear that the stay on ban will be limited to Mumbai alone though a similar measure has been imposed in the adjoining Mira-Bhayander and Navi Mumbai towns.
The court will now consider if such a ban is correct in a metropolitan or cosmopolitan city and if it amounts to violation of the fundamental rights of people and if one religion can be given preference over others.
(With inputs from the PTI)