The State cannot trample over fundamental rights to life, livelihood, food choice, Allahabad HC tells Adityanath government

“The inaction of the state government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of total prohibition”

meat Shops
Image: Indian Express

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has slammed the UP government over its indiscriminate crackdown on the sale and the resulting consumption of buffalo, mutton and chicken meat under the cover of shutting down illegal slaughter houses or expiry of licenses.

While castigating the state government for its “abrupt” action, the court pointed out that under law the state and the civic bodies were obliged to build and maintain slaughter houses so that people have access to healthy meat.   

The court observed that in many cases illegal meat trade has thrived only because municipal-run slaughter houses have failed to do their jobs and the government has refused to renew licenses.  

 “The inaction of the state government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of total prohibition”, ruled Justices Sanjay Harkauli and Amreshwar Pratap Sahi.

Sabrang India was the first to report on the order dated April 3 of the division bench in the English media.

The court has directed the UP administratiob to deliberate over and report back to the court in 10 days whether its indiscriminate actions are not violative of the right of meat traders guaranteed under Article 19(g) [Right to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business] and the right of consumers guaranteed under Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty, which include the right to choice of food].

“The competing rights of trade, profession, health safety as well as consumption and the obligation of the state to make facilities available are issues that may be addressed,” the court observed.

It added, “To provide an immediate check on unlawful activity should be simultaneous with facilitating the carrying out of lawful activity, particularly that relating to food, food habits and vending thereof that is undisputably connected with the right to life and livelihood. Food that is conducive to health cannot be treated as a wrong choice and it is for this reason that provisions are obligated on the state to be made available for maintaining the requirement of supply of healthy foodstuff”.

“Health, culture, personal food habits, the socio-economic status of the society, the availability of foodstuff at affordable prices, the convenience of availability, the contents, quality and strength of foodstuff essential to life, and a balance of such competing rights under the secular umbrella of the Constitution are all issues that need a deliberation before any overt or covert action is taken. It should not appear to be abrupt for those who are at the receiving end and should not be legally unconstitutional.

“Food habits in this state have flourished and are an essential part of life as an element of the secular culture that has come to exist and is common among all sections of society. Compliance of law should not end in deprivation, the cause whereof may be attributable to the inaction of the state”.

Noting that the situation in rural areas is different from that prevailing in urban areas, the court referred to a 1961 local government legislation in UP that obliges the local bodies to provide for a slaughter house within a radius of 2 miles of the meat shop sellers in villages, hats and bazaars.

The court also directed that petitioner Saeed Ahmed’s application be processed and his license renewed within a week.

April 13 has been set as the next date of hearing in the matter.

Read the full court order.



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