Beef Ban: HC Sets Aside Earlier Order, Puts Ball in Govt’s Court

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SRINAGAR: A Jammu and Kashmir High Court full bench today set aside an earlier order directing enforcement of legal bar on bovine slaughter and beef sale, saying state government “shall consider” review of laws and take decisions within the Constitutional framework to ensure no inter-religious conflict arises.

The bench comprising Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar, Ali Muhammad Magrey and Tashi Rabstan, whose orders restored status quo ante, had been asked by the Supreme Court on October 5 to resolve the beef ban issue as division benches of the HC — one in Srinagar and another in Jammu — had differed over the matter after which the state government had moved the apex court.

The bench disposed of petitions and vacated the court orders passed from time to time on the issue.

The quorum constituted on the Supreme Court orders to decide on two separate directions by two benches of the J&K High Court while restoring the status quo ante passed direction to the state government to take appropriate action while stating “The state of Jammu and Kashmir through Chief Secretary to consider the issues raised in these petitions in the light of observations made in this order and take appropriate steps in accordance with law.”

“The state of Jammu and Kashmir, in view of the observation made in this order shall have to consider reviewing of existing laws and take a  policy decision within the framework of Constitution, and ensure that no inter-religious conflict takes place among the people of the state,” the full bench said in its 25-page order.

The court passed the direction that “the executive wing of state has to apply its mind, frame a policy and cull out a solution which satisfies the soul of constitution.”

The full bench had been constituted after the Supreme Court kept in abeyance for two months the September 9 order of a division bench of the state High Court directing the police authorities to enforce the more than century-old beef ban in the state.

In its order, the High Court’s division bench at Jammu had on September 9 asked the state police chief to “strictly enforce” the existing laws (sections 298 A to D of the J&K Ranbir Penal Code) regulating ban on bovine slaughter and beef sale in the state.

However, a week later, another division bench of the HC in Srinagar had admitted a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the penal sections regulating ban on bovine slaughter and beef sale and issued notices to the state government directing it to file a response within one week.

Later, the state government approached the Supreme Court against the two orders of the High Court.

The bench observed that India is a pluralistic state and state of Jammu and Kashmir paints pluralistic colours more vividly.

“It has to be thus ensured that sentiments of citizens belonging to all the religions and faiths are respected. Religions and faiths preach and teach accommodating and respecting the rights of each other.

The bench while talking about the sensitivities of the matter has said, “a religion is a prescription which guarantees peace and order in the society. Religion delineates path of peace, truth, piousness and righteousness.” It further says that “respect shown to the religious sentiments of each other in a pluralistic society like ours is hallmark of our ancient history.”

“Religion acts as cohesive and not as divisive force…. The religion, when exploited for serving individual or particular groups’ interests, corrupts pure minds of innocent people and has the potential of creating disorder and anarchy in the society,” the court said.

The bench quoted extensively from the Constitution, highlighting the guarantee to every person to live his life according to his religious tenets.

“Every citizen/person and individual who inhabit this country, which includes state of Jammu and Kashmir, has right to profess and follow his/her religious tenets,” it added.

The court also said the hearing in the PIL before the Jammu wing of the court was not required and it was of no consequence “since the court (full bench) has not decided any issue adversely affecting the legal rights and interests of any of the parties”.

The bench also observed that the courts in view of delineated area of functioning have no power to legislate laws, which is the function of the state legislature.

“The courts cannot further direct to state government to legislate a particular law or to enact a law in a particular manner. This court can neither direct for legislating a law for banning slaughter of bovine animals nor can it direct the state government to make a law to permit slaughter any kind of animal.

“This is always a policy matter of the state and the state has to always take a call on such issues. It is only after a law is made and its validity challenged then it becomes jurisdiction of the courts to test the legality of such law,” it added.

The court said in view of the aforesaid discussion, both the petitions are disposed of along with connected MPs and orders passed from time to time in these petitions are vacated. —With inputs from agencies

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