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Allahabad High Court dismisses PIL seeking transport of meat from outside to ‘restricted wards’ in Hindu pilgrim cities of Mathura and Vrindavan

The matter came up for hearing before a 2 Judge Bench of Justices Pritinker Diwaker and Ashutosh Srivastava. The Court noted that the writ petition by Shahida did not challenge the UP government notification dated September 10, 2021, or the government order dated September 17 last year.

In an order dated March 28, 2022, the Allahabad High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking permission to transport meat from outside to restricted wards of Vrindavan and Mathura during ceremonial occasions such as marriages.

A representation was made before the District Magistrate of Mathura by a ‘social worker’ named Shahida on January 17 this year. She had sought exceptions for non-vegetarians against a UP government notification, issued by the Additional Chief Secretary of the UP government on September 10, 2021.

The said notification had barred the sale of meat, fish, eggs and liquor within 10 kilometres of Krishna Janmabhoomi in 22 wards (Holy Place of Pilgrimage) of Mathura Vrindavan Nagar Nigam. It officially came into force on September 17 through a government order. The UP government had also suspended the license of non-veg hotels and shops through a consequential order on September 11 last year.

Although Shahida did not challenge the ‘constitutional validity’ of government order, she sought immediate relief against the ban and permission to transport the restricted food items into the 22 wards during events such as marriages. The petitioner requested the court to direct the police to not harass individuals indulging in the transport of non-vegetarian items into the restricted zone.

“It is contended that on account of such restrictions imposed, the non-vegetarian persons residing in the Wards so notified are being deprived of their choice of meals and also from carrying on their business and livelihood,” the petition had claimed.

Shahida further alleged that the majority of ward residents shared the same sentiment and that the government notification was violative of Article 19 (1) (g) (Right to practice any occupation) and Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) of the Indian Constitution.

When her petition was rejected by the District Magistrate of Mathura, she moved a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) through her counsel Surendra Kumar Tripathi before the Allahabad High Court.

Arguments made by the State

While defending the decision of the Uttar Pradesh government, Addl. Advocate General Manish Goyal had pointed out that both Mathura and Vrindavan are religious and historical places of importance. He argued that devotees from both India and abroad travel to the twin cities for darshan and virtuous upliftment.

“The State Government with a view to maintaining the historical, religious, tourism importance and above all the sanctity of the Holy places issued a Notification dated 10.9.2021 declaring 22 Wards of Nagar Nigam Mathura Vrindavan to be “Holy Place of Pilgrimage”, he had submitted.

The Addl. Advocate General further pointed out that restrictions on the sale of meat and liquor only applied to 22 wards and not in other places in the city which falls under the ambit of reasonable restriction as upheld by the Supreme Court of India in past cases. He also dismissed the argument of petitioner Shahida that fundamental rights were being infringed upon by virtue of the government notification.

“It is accordingly submitted that the relief claimed in the Writ (PIL) is not tenable and the Writ (PIL) is liable to be dismissed,” Manish Goyal had argued.

Observations made by the Allahabad High Court

The matter came up for hearing before a 2 Judge Bench of Justices Pritinker Diwaker and Ashutosh Srivastava. The Court noted that the writ petition by Shahida did not challenge the UP government notification dated September 10, 2021 or the government order dated September 17 last year.

“In the absence of any challenge to the above Notification and the Government Order, it can safely be presumed that the petitioner is not aggrieved by the same,” the Judges had observed. “This Court, therefore, does not deem it appropriate to dwell into the validity of the aforesaid Notification and the Government Order,” they added.

The Court stated that it could not conclude that Shahida had any grievance with the categorisation of the said 22 wards of Nagar Nigam Mathura Vrindavan as “Holy Place of Pilgrimage.”

“We also do not find any clear violation of any Constitutional provision by the said Notification. It is the prerogative of the Government to declare any place as “Holy Place of Pilgrimage. Mere declaration of any particular place as “Holy Place of Pilgrimage” does not mean that any restriction has been imposed and the said act is illegal,” the Allahabad High Court had held.

The Court stated, “We are of the opinion that it is the privilege of the State to do so. India is a country of great diversity. It is absolutely essential if we wish to keep our country united to have tolerance and respect for all communities and sects. It was due to the wisdom of our founding fathers that we have a Constitution which is secular in character and which caters to all communities, sects lingual and ethnic groups etc. in the country.”

“This restriction has been imposed only with respect to 22 Wards and is not applicable to other Wards of the city. Thus, there is no complete ban. The allegation of the petitioner that State Authorities are harassing such consumers of the restricted material (meat, liquor and eggs) in the transportation of the same is merely a bold and sweeping statement. No material has been brought on record to substantiate this allegation.” the Court ruled before dismissing the PIL.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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