Choice of food and trade in foodstuff were part of right to life, the Allahabad high court has said, giving the UP government 10 days to draw a plan so that its crackdown on illegal abattoirs and meat shops didn’t deprive people of their livelihood or food.
The court’s Lucknow bench also said various food habits had flourished in Uttar Pradesh and these were an essential part of the state’s secular culture. It was responding to a petition of a trader who sought directions for the government to renew his meat shop licence because the delay was preventing him from carrying on his trade.
Focus on cow smuggling and consumption of cattle meat has risen since the BJP won power in 2014, but the issue returned to spotlight after the new Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath clamped down on illegal slaughterhouses and cattle smuggling last month.
“To provide an immediate check on unlawful activity should be simultaneous with facilitating the carrying of lawful activity, particularly that relating to food, food habits and vending thereof that is undisputedly connected with the right to life and livelihood,” justices Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and justice Sanjai Harkauli said on April 3.
In response, the state government told the court here was no plan to ban consumption of meat or to close all slaughterhouses. The intention was to ban illegal slaughter houses and regulate their functioning in keeping with a Supreme Court order, it said.
The court appeared to agree with that, saying the government had not banned the sale of meat. It had only barred illegal abattoir, permitting licensed slaughterhouses to run.
Delay in renewal of licences and various approvals have been cited by several shop and slaughterhouse owners whose units have been shut down.