Yogi government cannot deny citizens right to livelihood and right to food of choice: Allahabad HC

Yogi government directed to renew existing licenses and issue fresh ones, open new slaughter houses to provide hygienic food to meat eaters.

A slaughter house being sealed in UP. Photo credit: Hindustan Times

A Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Friday ruled that no government can interfere with the people’s constitutional right to livelihood (Article 19) and the right to food of choice (Article 21).

Coming down hard on the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for its directive leading to the summary closure of allegedly illegal abattoirs and slaughter houses in the state, the high court directed the government to immediately renew existing licenses and issue new ones for slaughter houses and meat ships.

The judgment has been greeted with huge relief by the 27 petitioners and the tens of thousands of persons whose livelihood was severely affected through the summary closure not only of slaughter houses for buffaloes (slaughter of cow and its progeny is prohibited in UP) but even retail mutton and chicken shops.
The bench comprising of Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Sanjay Harkauli observed that the government cannot stop non-vegetarians from their choice of food and it was the duty of the government to provide proper slaughter houses for making hygienic meat available to consumers.

The court observed that while the government was obliged to act in accordance with the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 read with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the Rules, Regulations, the manner in which it has proceeded to implement the law has created problems and given rise to the petitions before it.

The Yogi Adityanath government, it noted, must implement the law as a model social welfare state under our secular constitution.

“It is expected that the state government and all its authorities shall make an endeavour to study the social, the economic and the legal impact and the practicality of implementation with a view to implement the laws as a Model Social Welfare State under our Secular Constitution with the objective of ameliorating the conditions in this field of trade and business, hygiene, sanitation and healthy food for its citizens on the anvil that it has the duty to do so”, said the bench.

“[The government’s directive] also gives rise to a consequential apprehension that it would affect an individual [right] to consume food of his own choice resulting in breach of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Thus it is the implementation part and the obligations, duties and responsibilities to be discharged by the State and local bodies and any alleged failure on their part that has given rise to these petitions. The claim of rights and the corresponding obligations therefore being a matter of assessment under the relevant laws and then its effective implementation appears to be the core issue on which the action or cause on behalf of the petitioners would fail or succeed.”

The court noted that the problems highlighted by the petitions would not have arisen if the government had shown due diligence and studied the problem from all angles before issuing its directive.

The court further noted that while claiming that a high powered committee had been appointed by the government for taking appropriate steps, “nothing has been brought before us after passing of such orders before this Court what deliberations have been made and what action has been taken by the state government to study the entire issue in the constitutional, the legal and the practical aspects of implementation of the 2006 Act, the Rules and the Regulations framed there under as well as the other provisions in this regard. We may put on record that had this effort been made by the state government more appropriately before taking any precipitate action the same could have been appreciated by this Court and could have been an aid in resolving the issue more effectively”.

The government has been directed not to dilly dally over the matter and resolve the issue at the earliest.

The court has fixed July 7 as the next date for hearing in the matter.

The justices also reminded the UP government that the Central government itself has been promoting the development of poultries, fisheries, hatcheries, piggeries and the like which are essential and have a direct nexus with the consumption by the public at large. It was therefore the duty of the state government to promote rather than hamper or prohibit such activities.

To ensure compliance with its orders the high court has directed that copies of the judgment are circulated among all divisional commissioners, district magistrates and civic bodies throughout the state.

It may be recalled that the sealing of not just "illegal" slaughter houses but even retail meat and chicken shops were among the first directives of the Yogi Adityanath government, thus hitting directly at the means of livelihood of tens of thousands of Muslims and others too. Within days, six other BJP ruled states had rushed to replicate the Yogi model. 

The Entire Judgement of the Allahabad High Court May be Read Here



Related Articles