The Bombay high court on Monday stayed the ban on sale of meat in Maharashtra on September 17, but refused to interfere with the ban on slaughter of animals on the day.
A bench of justice Anoop Mohta and justice SS Sayed said the state had failed to prove that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the government circulars, both issued in 2004, have led to a complete implementation of the ban on sale of meat during Paryushan – an eight-day period during which members of the Jain community observe fast and pray – in the previous years.
Last week, the BMC had agreed for a four-day ban on sale of meat in Mumbai during Paryushan Parva. It had also said that slaughter of animals will not be allowed in city abattoirs, meat and poultry shops and fish markets will be shut on September 10, 13, 17 and 18.
The ban had turned into a political slugfest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanding it should be imposed for eight days and the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena strongly opposing the move.
The BJP later said it would request the civic administration to reduce meatless days to two.
It said the merits of the issue of banning slaughter, among several other decisions made by the state in the present case, will be taken up during further hearings in the matter.
The bench added such bans, if imposed for a reasonable period, must be announced well in advance and not in the eleventh hour as in the present case, to ensure there is no confusion in the minds of the general public.
The court also said the government had also failed in explaining the "real reasons" behind banning selective non-vegetarian items.
"You will have to explain that if the principle of ahimsa indeed was the reason behind the ban, why were items like fish and eggs left out?" the bench said.
The HC granted the state and the BMC four weeks' time to file their replies in the case.