New Delhi: At a time when Uttar Pradesh is seeing a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has said that “food, food habits and vending thereof is undisputedly connected with the Right to Life and Livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

The HC made this observation while hearing a petition filed by a meat shop owner seeking renewal of the license.

The petitioner, a goat meat seller, has contended that the Nagar Palika Parishad of Lakhimpur Kheri was not renewing his license which had expired on March 31.

He said since he was earning his livelihood by selling goat meat, the non-renewal of the license was directly affecting his ability to survive.

In its response, the state government informed the court that the “intention” was not to ban the meat shops but only to target the unlawful slaughterhouses.

The division bench of Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Sanjai Harkauli noted that the “inaction of the state government in the past should not be a shield for imposing a state of almost prohibition”.

The bench noted that the inaction of the state government also affects the livelihood of the meat shop owners, violating their right to trade and profession, as well as fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

The bench also said that just because the state wishes to crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, it cannot forego facilities for the legal ones as it directly affects “private choice” of food.
“It is the private life of an individual that is also affected who may desire to have such food as his private choice of consumption. It should not appear to be abrupt for those who are at the receiving end,” observed the division bench.

The court has given the state government 10 days to convene a meeting and decide on the issue so that individuals’ livelihood and right to carry a trade and profession do not suffer. The matter has been posted for further hearing on April 13.

According to a news report, there are no official records of illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh. Industry insiders say there are 140 abattoirs and over 50,000 meat shops that don’t have the requisite permission. Under the current crackdown, the state government has sealed more than 20 illegal slaughterhouses and several meat shops.