The Municipal Corporation for Greater Mumbai (BMC) has imposed a ban on the sale of meat in the area under their jurisdiction for four days namely 10, 13, 17 and 20 September 2015. On the other hand, the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation has imposed a ban of 10 days on the sale of meat.
Though the ban is not new but in the backdrop of change in the ruling alliance and the subsequent enlarged beef ban law by way of amendment in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995 has created outrage with #meatban being among top trends on social media.
As a petition challenging the meat ban lies for its adjudication before the Bombay High Court, let’s look at some important aspects of the ban:
When did the ban start? Ans: 1964
The prohibition on the sale of meat during the Jain festival – Paryushan
started in the year 1964
when BMC passed a resolution imposing a two-day prohibition on sale of meat. The ban was imposed in wake of the demands from the Jain community. Later in the year 2004, the Congress-NCP led state Government passed another resolution endorsing a two-day ban. Since then, the ban has been extended to four days across Mumbai every September in light of the two resolutions each of the BMC and the state government.
Is this ban related to the recent beef ban? Ans No.
The beef ban was imposed in Maharashtra by the Maharashtra Legislature through the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976
which was later amended in 1995 to increase the scope of ban. However the 1995 amendment act received the assent of the President of India only this year in February and the was then notified in March this year. The constitutionality of the beef ban is pending before the Bombay High Court.
Has the present meat ban been challenged in Court? Ans. Yes
The meat ban has been challenged before the Bombay High Court in the case of The Bombay Mutton Dealer Association and Anr. v. State Of Maharashtra and Ors. (Writ Petition (L) No. 2662 Of 2015). The matter is being heard by a bench comprising of Justices Anoop V. Mohta and AA Sayed.
Are there judicial precedents governing the ban? Yes, it holds ban as valid
Supreme Court of India has held in a 2008 judgment in the case of Hinsa Virodhak Sangh Vs. Mirzapur Moti Kuresh Jamat & Ors that a partial ban (for a few days) on the sale of ban is valid and not violative of the fundamental rights to do trade and business as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
The subject matter of the case was a 9 day ban on sale of meat during Jain festival of Paryushan vide resolutions of the Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation in operation since 1993. A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court had held that the resolution of the Municipal Corporation were constitutionally invalid. Challenge was based on the ground that closure of the municipal slaughter houses directly results in violation of their fundamental rights to do trade and business as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and it cannot be said to be a reasonable restriction merely because a particular community or a section of the society feels that for a particular period there should be closure of the municipal slaughter houses as that will be in consonance with the Jain ideology of Ahimsa (non-violence).
An SC bench of Justices HK Sen and Markandey Katju allowed the appeal against the Gujarat High Court order, holding that the ban was not an unreasonable restriction but only a partial restriction for a limited period. It held:
In this connection it may be mentioned that there is a large population of the Jain community in the States of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Jains have a religious festival called Paryushan during which they do penance. Out of respect, for their sentiments surely the non-vegetarians can remain vegetarians for 9 days in a year.
While it is true that the fundamental right of the writ petitioners under Article 19(1)(g) is affected by the impugned resolutions of the municipal corporation, we have further to examine whether the resolutions are saved by Article 19(6) which states that reasonable restrictions can be put on the right to freedom of trade and occupation under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
Also, the traders in meat of Ahmedabad will not suffer much merely because their business has been closed down for 9 days in a year. There is no prohibition to their business for the remaining 356 days in a year.
In regard to the opposition to the meat ban, bench held:
In a multi cultural country like ours with such diversity, one should not be over sensitive and over touchy about a short restriction when it is being done out of respect for the sentiments of a particular section of society.