The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the implementation of the Jammu and Kashmir high court’s direction to police to enforce a ban on beef sales and ordered the formation of a new bench to decide the issue.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Jammu and Kashmir government’s plea against “conflicting orders” issued by the Jammu and Srinagar benches of the high court on the beef ban in the state.
The apex court kept in abeyance for two months the Jammu bench’s order barring the sale of beef and asking police to enforce the ban.
It also directed the high court’s Chief Justice to set up a three-judge bench to resolve issues arising from the conflicting orders of the two benches.
“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,” the court said.
Asking the apex court registry to intimate its counterpart about the order “forthwith”, the court further said 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.
Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL), the high court’s Jammu bench had on September 8 directed police to strictly enforce the ban on beef as laid down in the Ranbir Penal Code.
A week later, the Srinagar bench issued notice to the state government in response to another PIL that sought the striking down of constitutional provisions criminalising cow slaughter in the state.
On September 30, a Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice HL Dattu agreed to hear the state government’s petition after senior advocate Amarendra Sharan pointed out inconsistencies in the orders issued by the two benches of the high court.
The PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was forced to seek the apex court’s intervention so that “communal harmony is not disrupted” by inconsistent judicial pronouncements.
Jammu and Kashmir, which enjoys special status, has a separate constitution and criminal code, the Ranbir Penal Code.
Stumped by the conflicting orders, the state government asked the SC to “ensure that there is uniformity and consistency in the judicial pronouncements and there is no scope to exploit the present situation by disrupting communal harmony, amity and peace in the state”.
The state government requested the Supreme Court to decide the matter or set up a high court bench to settle the matter, which, it said, had grave ramifications for law and order.
The Congress and National Conference staged a protest in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly on Monday over the beef ban. The House was adjourned for 15 minutes because of chaos.
(With inputs from agencies)