HC stays Mumbai meat sale ban

The Bombay High Court on Monday stayed last week's controversial ban on the sale of meat in Mumbai during the Jain festival of Paryushan, asking why the restriction was only on mutton and chicken and not 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 court asked.

The meat sellers' association in Mumbai had challenged the ban in the high court.

Mumbai's civic body (MCGM), which had imposed a similar two-day ban on 13 and 18 September, withdrew the curbs last week following criticism from the high court and street protests, leaving the city with only the state government-imposed meatless day on 17 September.

The court, however, refused to intervene on the ban on slaughter of animals and closure of abattoirs on the 17th and made it clear the stay was only on the sale of meat, and would be limited to Mumbai alone.

Similar curbs have been imposed in the adjoining Mira-Bhayander and Navi Mumbai towns.

A division bench of Justices Anoop V. Mohta and Amjad Sayyed also noted that though the Maharashtra government had issued a circular in 2004 banning meat sale for two days, the order had never been implemented "in its true sense".

The court, which had taken a critical view of the issue right from the start and made some stinging remarks, said there had been inconsistency between the state government's stand and that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.

The state government had on 7 September 2004 issued a circular stating that for two days during the Paryushan festival, abattoirs would be closed and slaughter of animals and sale of meat banned.

"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.

"We are only going by the law and not dealing with this matter via sentiments and political things," the bench added before posting the petition for final hearing after four weeks.

The MCGM had withdrawn its ban last week through a resolution adopted by an emergency meeting of its elected council and informed the high court of its decision.

All major parties had criticised the ban, which the BJP wanted. The Shiv Sena, which runs the MCGM with the BJP, had opposed the ban. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had hit the streets on 10 September.

The bench also said the authorities should inform the public in advance about decisions that affect eating habits. "Sudden imposition, especially on eating habits, is not correct," it said.