Putting in abeyance a Jammu and Kashmir High Court order banning slaughter of bovines in the State, the Supreme Court Monday asked the Chief Justice of the State High Court to constitute a three-judge bench to decide on two conflicting orders on the issue.
A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu directed that the September 8 order of the Jammu bench of the High Court, ordering 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.
In a Special Leave Petition, the state government had moved against two "conflicting" orders of the High Court pertaining to slaughter of bovine animals and enforcement of a ban on beef sale in the state. The Jammu bench had asked the police chief to enforce the ban while a Srinagar bench had issued notice challenging the validity of the provisions banning beef sale.
"Order dated 8th of September 2015 passed in a writ petition at Jammu wing of High Court has been kept in abeyance for two months," Sunil Fernandes, standing counsel for Jammu and Kashmir, in the Supreme Court told Greater Kashmir.
He added: "Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice has been asked to constitute a three judge bench to decide the writ petition at Srinagar Bench of the High Court. He shall also decide whether the writ petition at Jammu bench of High Court ought to be transferred to the proposed three-judge bench or not."
He said the petition was listed in Court 1 at item 63 in the Supreme Court on Monday and senior Advocate Amarendra Sharan along with Advocate General of Jammu and Kashmir, Jahangir Iqbal Ganie pleaded the case on behalf of the State.
In its SLP moved before the apex court, the state said: "The High Court'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."
"The apex court should ensure that there is uniformity and consistency in the judicial pronouncements and that there is no scope to exploit the present situation by disrupting communal harmony, amity and peace in the state and thereby alienating people of the state from national mainstream," it said.
WHAT LEGAL EXPERTS SAY
Legal experts Monday said following the Supreme Court order, the state legislature is "free to discuss the matter" as the apex court has "not stayed the order of the division bench of High Court passed in Srinagar."
"By keeping in abeyance order of the Division Bench of High Court passed at Jammu, the SC has left it entirely for the state government to proceed in the matter without being accountable to the court. The SC has also asked the Chief Justice of the High Court to constitute larger bench for hearing the petition filed at Srinagar. Legislature is free to discuss the matter as the SC has not stayed the order of the DB passed in t Srinagar," senior lawyer Zaffar A Shah told Greater Kashmir.
Underling that the case has generated a huge debate and assumed importance to such an extent that it would be a benchmark case of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, senior Advocate Syed Tasaduque Hussain said: "The SC has already laid down the criteria for banning bovine slaughter in case titled Muhammad Haneef Qureshi versus UP and in Hakeem Akhlaq case wherein bovine animals above 20 years of age are allowed for slaughter. As no such data regarding cattle wealth of Kashmir (age-wise) has been maintained, so the J&K High Court shall have to lay down fresh norms".
He however said: "Though the court then decided the cases keeping in view economic aspect of the issue, the points raised in the petitions before Jammu and Kashmir High Court are religious in nature. And earlier a full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court has upheld the validity of Section 298, A B C D of RPC and it is why the case has now assumed importance and would be a benchmark case of Jammu and Kashmir High Court."