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13 May 2017

Right to sell and eat meat - HC tells Yogi govt tofacilitate legal trade

Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, May 12: Allahabad High Court has asked the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that legal activities which facilitate meat trade are not brought to a grinding halt and the supply of animal foodstuff is not impeded.
The interim order essentially means that the Yogi Adityanath government will have to lift an undeclared freeze on slaughterhouses and grant access to the facilities to meat sellers who have permits from the authorities.
The Lucknow bench of the high court cited past fund allocations by the state government to local bodies to establish and run modern abattoirs, suggesting that the State should build such facilities to ensure that the right to livelihood is not affected.
The court asserted that "animal food consumption" had "now become a necessary part of life".
"All the citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood to subserve common good which in the instant case would also include the choice of food of its citizens and all other such obligations that can be gathered from the constitutional provisions," a division bench of Justices Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Sanjay Harkauli said in the order.
"The laws prevalent... do not prohibit, rather permit, the fostering of such activities that include poultries, fisheries, hatcheries, piggeries and the like which are essential and have a direct nexus with the consumption by the public at large," the court added.
"In the absence of any facilities having been provided by the municipal corporations, the local bodies or the zilla panchayats, such trade or profession may prima facie face complete prohibition and affect the livelihood of those involved in this trade and profession," the court said.
In its Assembly election manifesto, the ruling BJP had promised to close down all slaughterhouses, legal or illegal.
The Adityanath government is unlikely to acknowledge any setback as it has been insisting that a crackdown it had launched soon after coming to power in March covered only illegal slaughterhouses and there was no ban on the consumption of meat.
On the ground, such a distinction was rarely made and complaints of indiscriminate closure of goat and buffalo meat shops had poured in. Besides, backlash-wary civic bodies had virtually stopped issuing certificates that would have allowed legal abattoirs to renew their licences.
The meat industry had gone to the court against this backdrop.
The high court has now asked the state government to submit a report by July 17 listing the number new licences issued and renewed till then and the action taken on today's order.
Another complaint of the trade was that the new government had made the provisions more stringent, though the administration has been saying it was merely following Supreme Court norms.
Today, the high court specifically directed the state government to undertake the exercise of granting licences for slaughterhouses and "make it known to the public at large through effective notifications and publications for everyone involved in such trade or business to undertake such measures".
"Ensure that such activities, particularly where there are no facilities available, are not brought to a grinding halt, thereby interfering not only with the right of trade and business but also resulting in an impediment in supply of animal food stuff either in the urban or rural areas," the court said.
The court gave the government the right to curb any unlawful activity.
But the bench added: "These plans could have been ensured had the state government itself undertaken this exercise of looking to its past performance and its obligations to be discharged in future. To this extent, we find that the cause and apprehension expressed by the petitioners of resulting in violation of rights deserves to be noticed by the state government itself.
The court added that the government should try to study the social, economic and the legal impact and the practicality of implementation".

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