Govt moves SC over HC’s ‘conflicting orders’ on beef ban

Govt moves SC over HC’s ‘conflicting orders’ on beef ban
  • Says orders can disturb peace in the state; SC posts hearing for Monday

Srinagar: The ruling PDP-BJP alliance has moved the Supreme Court on two “conflicting” orders of the J&K High Court over slaughter of bovine animals and enforcement of a ban on beef in the state.
On Wednesday, a division bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu agreed to hear the special leave petition filed by the government and posted it on October 5.
“List it on Monday,” the bench said after senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, appearing for the state government, highlighted the “inconsistency” in the orders and sought an urgent hearing in the matter.
In its plea, the state said, “The HC’s two conflicting orders have grave ramifications for the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir as the orders are being misused and interpreted in a manner so as to disturb peace in the state.”
While a division bench of the High Court at Jammu ordered enforcement of the ban on the sale of beef in the state, a bench at Srinagar issued a notice to the government on a petition seeking the court’s direction to strike down the Dogra-era law. In its plea, the government has requested the SC to “ensure that there is uniformity and consistency in the judicial pronouncements and there is no scope to exploit the present situation by disrupting communal harmony, amity and peace in the state.”
The government has also asked the apex court to decide the matter itself or set up an HC bench to settle the “contentious” orders. “There is a realistic possibility of the HC delivering two judgments, mutually contradictory, since two separate benches are seized of the respective petitions,” the petition said. The Jammu bench issued its directive on the first date of hearing and didn’t even wait for its response before dictating the order, the government said.
The Srinagar bench on September 16 said the pending petition should not prevent the government or the assembly from scrapping the provision or amending the RPC.
The petition was filed by a retired university professor, S Afzal Qadri, who pleaded that Sections 298-A to 298-D of the Ranbir Penal Code, which criminalise the slaughter of bovine animals, shall be declared as ultra vires (beyond the scope or in excess of legal power or authority) to the Constitution of India as well as to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and accordingly removed from the RPC. Qadri has submitted that the provisions directly interfere with personal liberty, and allows intrusion into religious as well as private lives of people.
According to 298-A, whosoever voluntarily slaughters a cow or any bovine animal, whether domesticated or wild, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to a fine. As per 298-B, whoever keeps in possession the flesh of any slaughtered ox, bull, cow or calf shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year and shall also be liable to a fine of up to Rs 500.
298-C says that whoever voluntarily slaughters or kills a buffalo, he or she shall be punished with a fine which may extend to five times the price of the animal killed or slaughtered as determined by the Court. 298-D states that whoever sells or has in his possession any untanned hide or flesh or brings into, or has in his, possession the carcass shall be punished with imprisonment of one month or with a fine which may extend to Rs 200 or with both.
“The penal provisions of any Code are adopted in a civilised society to reduce crimes by unlawful elements…The purpose and object of any criminal law cannot be achieved by criminalising any act of the petitioner which has been bestowed upon him by the religion which he professes,” Qadri said.
The ‘beef ban’ triggered widespread protests in Kashmir, with people slaughtering bovines on streets and also observing a shut-down.