September 17th, 2015
Image Source: Rediff
In the past few days we have all been witness to the controversy generated by meat ban in Maharashtra. For those who do not know, it was done keeping in mind the Jain festival of Parsyushana, which is celebrated for 8 (Swetambara Jains) or 10 (Digambara Jains) days in the month of August or September.
The ban on meat during the festival has been since 2004, but it has not been implemented consistently as far as the ban on sale is concerned. This year, however, the Maharashtra government imposed a ban on meat, triggering protests in Maharashtra as well as debates in the entire country. The ban was reduced to two days following the public outrage. The matter went to Bombay High Court which put a stay on the government order banning sale of meat and slaughter in Mumbai.
The Jain community made a plea to the Supreme Court, which gave its verdict today. The petition was filed by Shree Tapagarhiya Atma Kamal Labdhisuriswarji Gyanmandir Trust against the Bombay Mutton Dealers Association challenging the HC stay on a September 2004 notification for closing down of abattoirs in Mumbai. The Jain Trust argued that a ban on meat for 15-20 days can only be conceived as compassion for animals. Even animals have right to live under Article 21 of the Constitution, advocate Abhishek Singhvi argued. It is a practice of the principle of ahimsa.
The Supreme Court Bench of Justices T.S Thakur and Kurian Joseph said that “compassion is not something that should be reserved only for festival periods”. The former even quoted the famous poet Kabir – “’why do you peek into the homes of those who use meat, let them do what they do, but why are you so bothered about them, brother’. This means that there should be tolerance for the practices of other communities, too. Moreover, ahimsa cannot be practiced through meat ban. It can be inculcated in other ways. He said such calls for meat bans from governments are fodder for “elements who want to use it as a reason for conflict”.
Moreover, people who depend on meat products for their living would find it difficult to handle the ban. “Butchery is happening across the country, all over the world, even if you agree or not to it. Please inculcate the spirit of tolerance within”.
To put it in a nutshell, the Supreme Court said, “meat ban cannot be shoved down someone’s throat”.
The Trust has been allowed to withdraw its petition and given the liberty to approach the Bombay High Court for an early resolution of the issue.
It is true indeed that trying to regulate food choices of citizens is not a good idea. An appeal could have been made to shut down the slaughter houses and shops, leaving it to the public to decide what they want to eat based on their religious or personal choices.