SRINAGAR: Had the state government filed a response to a petition in time, the raging controversy over the beef ban might not have erupted in the first place.
The petition, which requested the court to order the authorities concerned to strictly implement the Dogra-era law that makes slaughter of bovines, and possession of beef, a punishable offence, was filed in August last year.
Since then, 11 hearings of the case were held, but the government “sought more time” on every hearing. Finally, on September 8 this year, the High Court asked the government to “strictly implement” the law, stirring outrage in the Muslim-majority region.
“The office of divisional commissioner Kashmir has slept over the issue for more than a year,” the fact-finding report submitted to law secretary by the former Additional Advocate General Vishal Sharma said. (The latter, in fact, has now been disengaged by the government, ostensibly for not playing his role even as he was representing the government in the case.)
On the first hearing, the court had directed the divisional commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu to submit what steps had been taken to prevent slaughter and sale of bovine animals.
The court had further directed them to get inputs from Inspectors General of Police of both divisions to find out whether bovines were slaughtered and their meat sold, and what steps had been taken to punish the violators.
Between August 4, 2014 and September 8, 2014, the case was listed 11 times and three counsels represented the state government — Gagan Basotra five times, SS Nanda once and Vishal Sharma twice. No counsel was present during two hearings.
While Jammu division counsels finally submitted the report on February 16 this year, the counsels from the Kashmir division failed to do so.
On the July 22 hearing this year, the court had ordered that it would impose a cost on divisional commissioner Kashmir if he fails to file a report by September 8. However, on September 8, the High Court granted four weeks’ time sought by Sharma, and did not impose any cost. On his part, divisional commissioner Kashmir Asghar Samoon — despite there being three hearings in the case since he took over in May — told Kashmir Reader that he has not received any copy of the order to file a report.
The court order has triggered protests, condemnations and slaughter of bovine animals on streets in the Valley.