‘Supreme Court Needs to Step in to Halt Rash of Bans on Meat’

Shiv Sena workers hold chickens during a protest against ban on meat in Mumbai last week. Credit: PTI

Shiv Sena workers hold chickens during a protest against ban on meat in Mumbai last week. Credit: PTI

New Delhi:  Legal luminaries believe the idea of banning cow slaughter as envisaged in the Directive Principles by the founders of the Constitution has been twisted and turned by politicians over the decades to suit their vested interests and that the recent ban imposed on slaughter of animals and the sale of all meat in view of the Jain fasting period of Paryushan is just a manifestation of that thought process.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde said the ban on cow slaughter goes back to the sentiments expressed by the founders of the Constitution in the Directive Principles. Article 48 seeks prevention of cow slaughter but while the idea was to seek protection for female bovines, the founders of the Constitution would not have envisaged that the ban would lead to a frenzy of banning.

“The ban against cow slaughter has been extended to push a religious agenda. I am sure, sooner or later, the Supreme Court would have to step in.”

While the issue first gained currency when the Mira Road-Bhayandar civic body near Mumbai imposed an eight-day ban on slaughter and sale of meat in its jurisdiction – such bans have been announced by it before too – it slowly snowballed into a major nationwide exercise by BJP state governments to woo the Jain community by imposing the ban during the fasting period.

So far five BJP States – Haryana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat – have imposed meat bans of varying length for Paryushan which is being celebrated this year between September 11 and September 19.

Though the period of the ban was reduced by some of the state Governments in the wake of mounting protests by various diverse sections – ultra-right wing Hindu groups like the Shiv Sena and MNS on the one side and various Muslim and liberal Hindu organisations on the other – legal experts believe the Supreme Court needs to step in to decide the legality of such bans, as in future too there may be more of them coming.

Senior advocate Abdul Majeed Memon said the ban on sale of meat is bad in law because it cannot be enforced under any law. He questioned under what statute the governments or civic bodies could ban the sale of a food item when it is not contraband or smuggled or intoxicating or unsafe or unhealthy.

“We have The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 under which any department of Food and Drugs Administration can totally withdraw from the market or prohibit any article which is hazardous to human health. But in the case of the meat ban, they are not saying that sale of meat is dangerous. They are doing so only to please a section of people. The ban cannot be enforced under any law; it is bad in law.”

With senior BJP leader and Home Minister Rajnath Singh declaring in March this year that his party, despite inadequate numbers in both Houses of Parliament, would seek to bring about a law for complete ban on beef in the country, it appears that in the months and years to come, the issue of cow slaughter and even the ban on sale of meat in different parts of the country will be raked up periodically as a political weapon by the party.

Though the Mumbai High Court had criticized the ban in a “progressive” Mumbai and stayed the ban on the sale of meat, the ban on slaughter stands. The court had also observed that while it understood the “sentiment part”, it could not see the reason behind it, particular as this time it extended to even the sale of meat whereas in the past it was restricted to slaughter. “Purchase is an independent choice,” the court had said.

Citing a 2008 Supreme Court ruling which upheld a similar ban in Ahmedabad, the BJP government in Maharashtra has argued that all it is doing is respecting the sentiments of a particular community. “It doesn’t matter if Jains are fewer in number in Mumbai.”

For his part, Sanjay Hegde said banning anything just because it goes against the tenets of another person’s religion is not right.

On whether the civic bodies and the state governments were justified in imposing such bans on animal slaughter and sale of meat when it impacted the livelihoods and sentiments of various communities, Hegde said while any order that is taken to protect health and public order is justified, in the current case it seems more like a case of abuse of power by the politicians for religious purposes. “If there is a cattle disease or bird flu and a civic body or government orders killing of animals or prevention of slaughter, then it is definitely justifiable, but just to impose a ban to woo a particular community or target another is not right.”

He said the decision also smacked of a religious move in which one community in political power seeks to impose its writ on others as the mayor of Mumbai’s Mira Road-Bhayandar civic body, which was the first to impose the ban, was a Jain. The Mayor, Geeta Jain, has defended the imposition of ban during the Jain fasting period.


Advocate and BJP spokesperson Nalin S. Kohli said he would not like to comment on the issue as it was a subject matter of the States and he had not delved into it.


Advocate and BJP spokesperson Nalin S. Kohli said he would not like to comment on the issue as it was a subject matter of the States and he had not delved into it.


  • Raja2000

    A bunch of Fascists are imposing a ban on meat. This is untenable and the matter should be taken to the Supreme Court for resolution.