Society can’t decide members’ food habits: legal fraternity

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 18, 2015 23:28 IST

The legal fraternity has reacted sharply to the Dahisar incident, where a family was allegedly assaulted by its neighbours for eating meat.

Lawyers said there is no legal provision that allows majority members in a cooperative housing society to compel their food habits on others.

Advocate Uday Warunjikar said a co-operative housing society cannot frame bye-laws contrary to the constitutional mandate and the provisions of the Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act.

“There is no legal provision that empowers a society to frame bye-laws restraining a member from eating non-vegetarian food in his flat, and therefore, the action of the [Dahisar housing society] members is unjustifiable,” he said.

If some members try to force others to change their eating habits, it amounts to a violation of the fundamental right to choose one’s own food, Warunjikar said.

Advocate Vijay Kulkarni, who handles matters involving co-operative housing societies, said a housing society cannot have by-laws restricting its members’ food habits. “A society is formed for serving administrative purposes, not to regulate the eating habits of individual members,” said Kulkarni. People doing this will be liable to give a legal explanation [face legal action] for their actions, he added.

Consumer lawyer Uday Wavikar said no by-laws can restrict activities of members within the confines of their flats, unless they are against morality or against public interest.

“A by-law that is against the personal liberty and freedom of a person cannot be adopted. Any action, if it is done inside the house in a personal capacity without disturbing the society infrastructure, cannot be restricted,” he said.

“The society can make a law to restrict activities conducted in public, or on the premises in view of factors such as hygiene or cleanliness, but not inside the house unless they are illegal,” Wavikar added.

“There is no legal provision regulating food habits of individual members of a co-operative housing society,” said advocate Ashish Gaikwad.

Therefore, food habits of members of a co-operative housing society cannot be regulated by other members, he said, adding that members definitely can’t take law in their own hands and manhandle other member of a society for their food choices.

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