New Delhi(PTI): The Supreme Court on Monday suspended for two months a controversial court order for enforcing ban on the sale of beef in Jammu and Kashmir while asking the Chief Justice of J-K High Court to set up a three-judge bench to decide on two conflicting orders on the issue.
A bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu directed that the September 8 order of the Jammu bench of the High Court, by which it had ordered enforcement of ban on sale of beef in the state in pursuance of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) provisions, be kept in abeyance for two months.
The bench also referred to the order passed by another division bench of high court at Srinagar in which the state was given liberty to amend the RPC provision in question. The bench, also comprising Justice Amitava Roy, said, “Since there are conflicting expressions given by two division benches of the high court, we request the learned Chief Justice to constitute a bench of three learned judges to take a decision on the writ petitions.”
Asking the apex court registry to intimate its counter part about the order “forthwith”, the court further said that the Chief Justice of the high court will be at liberty to decide the place where the larger bench will hear and decide together the two writ petitions.
The bench disposed of the petition filed by the state government which had said that the inconsistent views of the two benches of the high court were being “misused” to disturb peace and communal harmony in the state.
While the Jammu bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ordered enforcement of the bar on the sale of beef in the state under the RPC, the Srinagar bench agreed to hear a separate plea seeking scrapping of the provision that bars slaughter of bovine animals. The order asking the police to enforce the beef ban had led to strong protests in the state and forced a three-day internet shutdown during the Eid festival to avert any flare-ups.
The state, in its plea, had said, “Vide impugned orders of Jammu & Srinagar Benches of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court…have passed two mutually conflicting orders which have grave ramifications for the law and order situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir as orders are being misused and interpreted in a manner so as to disturb peaceful fabric of the State.” It had said that the apex court should “ensure there is uniformity and consistency in judicial pronouncements and no scope to exploit the present situation by disrupting communal harmony, amity and peace in the state and thereto alienating people of the State from national mainstream.” In its order, the Jammu bench had said, “The Director General of Police is directed to ensure that appropriate directions are issued to all the SSPs/SPs, SHOs of various police districts so that there is no sale of beef anywhere in the State of J&K and strict action is taken in accordance with the law against those who indulge in it.” On the other hand, the Srinagar bench, on September 16, issued notice on a plea that had sought striking down of the RPC provision banning slaughter of bovine animals.
It was alleged in the plea before the Srinagar bench that the RPC provision was “ultra-vires” as the bar constituted an “unreasonable infringement” on fundamental rights of citizens.
The Srinagar bench had also said that the pendency of the plea before it will not operate “as a bar” if the state wants to do away with the provision.
“…We would like to make it clear that if the State or Legislature contemplates or takes steps for scrapping or amending the provisions as are under challenge, the pendency of this writ petition shall not operate as a bar,” it had said.