Seventy per cent of Indians are meat eaters, according to a NDTV report released yesterday. Eating meat is only a matter of the dietary preferences and health of those who love it. While there is nothing special about it, there are persistent attempts in many parts of our country to mix religion with meat and poison the social atmosphere. The same was pointed out by the Uttarakhand High Court last year. The court ruled that 70 per cent of the country’s population eats non-vegetarian food and therefore meat is not a majority – minority issue.
The mayor of South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s order to close meat outlets in the wake of Navratri’s nine – day fast was controversial. The corporation has moved to ban meat in the area, saying it would be difficult for Navratri fasters to visit butcher shops. It must be examined whether there is constitutional validity to take such a step on religious grounds.
Article 19 (1) (l) of the Constitution gives citizens the fundamental right to earn a living by trading, trading and trading. The Constitution also clarifies that in the interest of the public, the State may impose reasonable restrictions on this right through law. It is, therefore, debatable whether the public interest means the sentiments of a section.
The Constitution is not meant only for those who think on their own. Rather, it is noteworthy that the Supreme Court explained in the 1952 VG Row case that judges should be guided by the notion that the value of what everyone has is what constitutes fair control. The apex court was reminded that there should be no partisan moves in the name of fair restrictions and that constitutional values should be upheld.
The observation made by the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammad Farooq in 1969 clearly clarifies the constitutional line on this subject. The court made a remarkable analysis in a legal case questioning the municipality’s order that the slaughter of bulls was illegal. Allowing bulls to be slaughtered in an area controlled by the local authority may hurt the feelings of a section of the people. However, the apex court ruled that if the regulation was not in the public interest, it could not be considered as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to employment, trade and commerce.
Meanwhile, in the 2004 Om Prakash case, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the ban on the sale of eggs at pilgrimage sites in Rishikesh, Haridwar and Muni Ki Rati. The apex court ruled that the ban on the sale of eggs was a reasonable restriction under Article 19 (6) of the Constitution in a petition filed by hoteliers in the affected areas against the ban. The court rejected the petitioners’ claim, pointing out that the restricted areas were places of pilgrimage and that the ban had been in place for more than half a century.
There is no direct reference in our Constitution that the right to food is a fundamental right. But it is part of the right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21. Constitutional courts have repeatedly ruled that the right to privacy includes the right to food. Since food is a paramount right, unjustly denying it is a gross violation of human rights. Meat is one of the most nutritious foods available to the starving people of the country at relatively low prices. The eagle eyes that live on food and oligarchs are the ones who are pushing the masses of the country into further despair as they are the victims of misguided and persistent government actions. Statistics show that it is not the religion of Indians that is behind the meat ban. Then it is a vicious act of burning religious hatred and reaping political benefits by mixing the poison of hatred even in the food of the citizen. The occasional beef and halal controversy is no different. But hate propaganda succeeds where a large section of democratic secular believers fail to recognize that. It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court has refused to intervene in the Bombay High Court judgment which stayed the order banning the sale of meat during the Jain festival in 2015. The court ruled that the beef ban could not be enforced by holding people by the neck and was a matter to be handled with patience and forbearance. Attempts are being made to strangle democratic India when the state interferes even in the food interests of the citizens.