Questioning the constitutionality of a ban on slaughterhouses in Haridwar district, the Uttarakhand High Court has said a civilisation is judged by the way it treats its minorities.
Hearing a petition filed by residents of Manglaur challenging the ban on slaughterhouses in Haridwar district on Friday, a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice R S Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma said, "Democracy means the protection of minorities. A civilisation is judged only by the way it treats its minorities and a ban like Haridwar's questions the extent to which the state can determine a citizen's options."
The petition said the prohibition goes against the right to privacy, the right to life, and the right to freely practice religion and discriminated against Muslims in Haridwar where towns like Manglaur have a substantial Muslim population.
"Denying hygienic and fresh non-vegetarian food to people of Haridwar district across the limitations of religion and caste amounts to hostile discrimination," the petition said.
In March this year, the state had declared all areas of Haridwar "free from slaughterhouses" and cancelled the NOCs issued to slaughterhouses.
The petition claimed the ban was "arbitrary and unconstitutional". The petition challenged this for two reasons: a blanket ban on meat of any kind is unconstitutional, as is Section 237A that the Uttarakhand government had inserted into the Uttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, to give itself the power to declare an area under a municipal corporation, council or Nagar panchayat as a "slaughter-free" zone.
The court said the petition has raised "serious fundamental questions" and would involve a constitutional interpretation.
On similar issues, the Supreme Court had earlier raised concerns that "meat ban cannot be forced down the throat of anyone. Tomorrow, you will say nobody should eat meat," the High Court said.
Keeping this in mind, the High Court observed, "The question is whether a citizen has the right to decide his own diet or whether that will be decided by the state."
However, the court maintained that this is a constitutional issue not restricted by festivals and the case needed proper hearing and deliberations.
Hence, it is not possible to conclude it in time for Bakrid which falls on July 21, the court said, adding that the next hearing of the petition will be held on July 23.