Is Meat Ban during Navratri Unconstitutional?

27 Sep 2022  Read 981 Views

The right to eat food of one's own choice and the right to trade and business is guaranteed by our Indian Constitution as fundamental rights. But if these are the guaranteed rights, then why are meat shops restricted from selling meat during Navratri, or why non- vegetarians are compelled to give up meat during such festivals? These questions are not new; rather, it has been a debatable issue for a long time. While the conversation has mostly been regarding cow slaughter and beef-eating, there have also been other instances like meat (chicken or mutton) being banned during particular festivals and at religious places – all of which raise questions about what a person can eat. 

Though India has the widest population of vegetarians worldwide, it is still meat- eating nation for ages, and Indians have adopted a variety of diets based on geography or socio-economic status, such as the Muslim religion is predominantly non-vegetarian, while Jains are predominantly vegetarians. etc.

“In this article, we will examine the recent issue of meat bans on the occasion of Navratri. Is it constitutional or not, and Supreme Court's stand on the meat ban in several states in India? Let's get started."

Constitutional validity of meat bans in India

Now Let's see the constitutional validity of such calls to ban meat for religious reasons. And How the ban on meat sales violates Fundamental rights?

  • The unofficial ban on meat - because shops have been effectively closed by owners unaware of the directive's illegality or too concerned to challenge it violates three principles of the Constitution of India: equality; freedom to trade; and the right to “self-determination” and freedom of choice.

  • Section 14 of the Constitution guarantees equal rights for all Indian citizens. It respects the general principles of equality before the law and prohibits unreasonable classification among people. A ban on the sale of meat certainly warrants such discrimination.  

  • Some individuals' livelihood depends on selling meat. Right to Livelihood is safeguarded by the fundamental rights enshrined under Indian Constitution. To know the details about Fundamental Rights under Constitution of India, enrol for the below-mentioned course.

  • The two main principles on which Article 14 is based are “reasonable classification” and “understandable distinction”. This means that the classification of people/things must be based on conceivable differences, which means where there is a law that distinguishes between two groups of people or things, any distinction must be understandable. , "reasonable and wise" and must not be "artificial or artificial". 

  • Ban on sale of meat have failed this test. One group most affected by these bans are small-scale butchers, whose livelihoods depend on selling meat daily, which is sold for free online or in restaurants. 

  • Section 19(1)(g) of the Constitution provides the right to practice any profession or engage in any profession, trade, or business.

  • This right to sell meat may be limited only under section 19(6) by law and on reasonable grounds deemed in the public interest,” the Constitution states. 

  • The “Golden Triangle” protects individuals from any infringement of their rights. The Supreme Court in  Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, 1978 ruled that a law depriving a person of "personal liberty" must not only pass the test of Section 21 (the right to self-determination and freedom of choice).  

  • The ban discriminates between rich and poor The meat sales ban focuses on a group of citizens, the majority of which are shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, and shopkeepers from disadvantaged or economically disadvantaged communities. 

Therefore, if the meat ban is to go to court, the mayor or city will have to prove that the restrictions are "reasonable" and must respect "the doctrine of proportionality." For example: If the meat ban in Gujarat has to be challenged, then reasonable restrictions have to be proved by the defence.

Why is non-veg sold outside Durga Puja pandals? 

This is a question that probably all Bengalis are tired of hearing, especially from people outside Kolkata. I.e  No celebration in Bengal is completed without mach, mangsho, and mishti (fish, meat, and sweet). And Durga Puja, which falls simultaneously as Navratri, is Bengal's biggest festival. So reducing the favorite foods from their diets in Durga Puja would be a crime. Also, they don't just consider Durga Maa as a goddess. To Bengalis, Durga Maa is mother and daughter. It is an essential part of the Bengali food system, sometimes even spiritually. Here are some reasons:

  • Has meat eaten to celebrate the victory of good over evil?  

In the Shakta tradition, Durga Maa is considered Shakti (supreme power). Durga Puja is the celebration of Durga Maa’s victory over Mahishasura. Durga puja is the festival of victory of good over evil. The joy of victory was celebrated with a feast of meat and fish sacrifices. Mainly during Kali Puja, mutton is eaten as dinner without onion or garlic, served to Goddess first of all as "prasad".

  • Meat has particular importance in the life of married Bengali women 

  •  In ancient times,  meat held a special place in the diet of married Bengali women. According to belief, a married woman is not allowed to leave the house without fish or rice. On the other hand, a widow is not allowed to be a vegetarian. 

  •  Fish and lamb are offered as prasad during Bengali pujas.

Mainly, it's article 21, which permits every citizen to eat as per their choice and article 19, to sell meat, and if a ban has to be imposed, reasonable restrictions have to be proven.

What does the Supreme Court say on the meat ban?

  • In 2008, while deciding the constitutional validity of closing a slaughterhouse for 9-days during a Jain festival in Ahmedabad, the 2-judge bench of the Court held that “a large number of people are non-vegetarian and they cannot be compelled to become vegetarian for a long period. 

  • What one eats is one’s personal affair, and it is a part of his right to privacy which is included in Article 21 of our Constitution”. 

  • However, the Court upheld the 9-day ban. Interestingly, after retirement, Justice Markandeya Katju, who authored the judgment, said that he had doubts about the correctness of that verdict.

  • In 2015, the Supreme Court, while refusing to interfere with the Bombay High Court decision staying the order prohibiting the sale of meat during a Jain festival, remarked that the meat ban cannot be forced down people’s throats and that such matters must be handled with tolerance and compassion.

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court, in a PIL seeking a ban on meat export, said, “Do you want everybody in this country to be vegetarian? We can’t issue an order that everyone should be vegetarian.“

  • Similarly, in 2020, the Supreme Court commented while hearing a plea to ban Halal meat, “Tomorrow you will say nobody should eat meat?"

  • In K S Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017), the Supreme Court ruled that any restriction imposed on a fundamental right is subject to the doctrine of proportionality. This requires state action to have legislative power; it must show that the object of the law is based on the “legitimate goal of the government” and must be “proportionate”, and the action of the state must be “necessary”. Such action should not have alternatives and be less intrusive to achieve the same goal. If such a ban remains in place, it will apply to all.

What do the High Courts say?

  • In 2016, the Bombay High Court struck down certain amendments to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act 1976 relating to the beef ban

  • In 2017, the Allahabad High Court held that the right to choice of food falls within the fundamental right to food, and eating food of choice, be it meat, is an aspect of the Right to Food.

  • In 2011, the Uttarakhand High Court orally observed that banning meat concerns the fundamental rights of the citizen and that India is a country where 70% of the population eats non-vegetarian food hence meat ban is not a majority vs Minority issue

Why is meat banned in Gujarat?

  •   Unhygienic

Some people eat vegetarian food, some people eat non-veg food and the BJP government doesn't see a problem with that. There has been a request to remove some larvae from the road, due to its unhygienic nature

  • Blocking traffic 

The chief minister said that local civic bodies decide to remove food trucks if they obstruct road traffic. “The local corporations or municipalities decide to get rid of the food carts.  

  •  Foul smell 

 They leave a negative impact on the minds of young children.

  •  Safeguard the identity and traditions

Citing the "identity and 'traditions' of Gujarat, a  ban is imposed on the sale of non-vegetarian food on the street and main roads and had them removed as part of their usual anti-encroachment operations, without waiting for approval from the Standing Committee." 

  • Religious feelings hurt, dangerous to health

The restrictions in Ahmedabad come days after the Vadodara and Rajkot cities in  Bharatiya Janata State (BJP) run by the Party (BJP), ordered merchants and street vendors to cover up uneaten foods. vegetarianism, including eggs, says it can harm Hindu religious feelings. He added that the smoke emitted from these places poses a health hazard.

Other aspects of the meat ban 

  • Food culture and nutrition: The life and diet of the poor can't afford the milk, dried fruit, and other legumes that the rich eat in every daily meal. The poor can only get protein from meat that is cheaper than some other heavy meats and vegetarian ingredients. 

  • Impact on rural economy: Cattle that are no longer useful to farmers are often sold at local cattle fairs and end up in slaughterhouses. The modest money earned from this sale helps farmers in need. Impact on Livelihoods: The livelihoods of butcher communities in urban centres revolve around the meat trade, and imposing a total ban could have negative effects. 

  • Economic impact: India's thriving US$17.8 billion leather industry generates 95% of India's footwear demand, and its offal is widely used in the industry pharmaceutical industry and manufacturing. The economic value of animals, even if not acquired by other ranchers, persists because all downstream economic values ​​of the cattle economy post-slaughter (including exports)  will be negatively impacted.

  • Business rights: Such a ban would also affect their basic business rights. Under Section 12 of the Street Vendors Act (Protecting Livelihoods and Street Vendors Regulations) 2014, every street vendor is entitled to do business under the terms and conditions stated in the certificate to sell. 

  • Religious views: In a diversified country like India, everyone has the right to follow their religion. It should be noted that during the nine days of Navaratri, many people in the northern states of India abstain from eating meat. Some people even fast on all nine days. Despite this, Hinduism is a diverse and pluralistic religion, and local cultures have an influence on its celebrations. While North Indians abstain from eating meat and other non-vegetarian goods at this time, Bengalis eat fish and mutton and even gift them to Goddess Durga. 

Conclusion 

Some people do not eat meat during these nine days of Navrati, but at the same time, they do not wish to see others deprived of food simply because they participate in the custom. This is how you cultivate respect for the community, festival or religion. hence "India's religiously diverse population is made up of religious communities unfamiliar with the beliefs and practices of others, but many Indians have a pluralistic rather than exclusionary attitude towards religion. religious threshold. Regulations from the choice of clothing to wear to the type of food to eat are unreasonable and unconstitutional. Everyone has the right to profess their religion and follow their rituals as the constitution gives these rights. Speaking about the meat ban is unconstitutional because it affects the right to freedom of trade, and the right of citizens is affected due to this law.

About the Author: Shivam Pathak | 23 Post(s)

Shivam is pursuing a BA. LL. B (HONS.) 5-year integrated course from Amity University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh. With a core interest in Criminal and Civil Law, his hobbies are reading books and listening to songs in his free time.

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