Amid the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court has observed that the choice of food, food habits and trade in foodstuff were part of right to life and livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
According to a report in the Live Law, the High Court observed that food habits in UP have flourished and are an essential part of life as an element of the secular culture that has come to exist and is common amongst all sections of society.
The court was responding to a petition of a meat trader who sought directions for the government to renew his licence in the backdrop of Yogi Adityanath government's action against illegal slaughter houses and meat shops in the state.
“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, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
The court said that "food that is conducive to health cannot be treated as a wrong choice” and it was the duty of the state to ensure supply of healthy foodstuff.
The state government contended that their intention is neither to ban consumption of meat nor to close all slaughterhouses and the intention is only to ban the illegal slaughter houses and regulate its functioning and moreover to comply with a Supreme Court order.
The Court expressed that “the inaction of the State Government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of almost prohibition.” and “Compliance of law should not end in deprivation, the cause whereof may be attributable to the inaction of the State Government.”
Meat traders have cited delay in renewal of licences and various approvals of shops and slaughterhouses that have been shut down.
The court has clubbed with the current plea all the petitions filed before the Lucknow bench against the crackdown and ill now hear the plea further on April 13.
On March 28, the court had asked the government to place before it the order or instruction under which the drive for closure of illegal meat shops was being undertaken.
Since coming to power, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in state has launched a massive operation to close down illegal slaughter houses and meat shops.
A total of 26 illegal abattoirs have been shut down in Uttar Pradesh, Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh told reporters yesterday.
"As many as 26 illegal slaughter houses have been closed in the state. No illegal slaughter house will be allowed to operate," he told reporters.
Singh said instructions have also been issued to officials that they should not act in an "over-enthusiastic manner."
The minister, however, did not specify the total number of slaughter houses operating in the state at present.
The BJP leader clarified that there was no objection in renewal of licenes of meat sellers.
A delegation of meat sellers had recently met Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath following the state government's crackdown on illegal slaughter houses.