Srinagar: The J&K high court on Thursday granted three more weeks to state government for filing its response to a petition seeking abrogation of a Dogra-era law which makes the slaughter of bovine animals and sale of beef in the state a punishable offence
As the hearing in the petition, filed by a retired Kashmir university professor S M Afzal Qadri, started before a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Mohammad Magrey, advocate general Jahangir Iqbal Ganie sought three weeks’ time to file the response. The court accepted Ganie’s request as it ordered to list the petition on 26 October.
While admitting the petition, the court on September 16 had directed government to file its response within week even as it said that the pendency of the petition will not be a hurdle if the state government or the legislature contemplates to scrap or amend the law.
Today’s request by the state government comes a day after Supreme Court agreed to hear its special leave petition (SLP) over high court’s two “conflicting” orders on the sale of beef.
In the SLP, 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.”
Besides citing the September 16 order, the government referred to an order by a division bench of the High Court at Jammu, directing enforcement of the ban on the sale of beef 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 SLP said.
In the petition, the 65-year-old professor 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 allow intrusion into religious as well as private lives of people.
“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.
At Thursday’s hearing, the petitioner was represented by advocate Faisal Qadri before the high court bench.