On Friday, the Supreme Court sought the Uttar Pradesh government’s answer to a petition challenging the ban on the manufacture, storage, sale, and distribution of halal-certified food items, but declined to safeguard halal certification providers from coercive action.
The order was issued by a bench of justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta while hearing a petition filed by Halal India Private Limited, an internationally recognized halal certification provider, which challenged the UP government’s order of November 18, 2023 as well as a criminal case filed against it in Lucknow just a day before the order imposing the ban. The prohibition only applied inside the state of Uttar Pradesh and did not extend to exports.
The bench posted the matter after two weeks after senior advocates Raju Ramachandran and Sidharth Agarwal appearing for Halal India and Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra sought ban on the order claiming it was intended against Muslims and apprehended similar bans in other states. Ramachandran urged the court to pass an order directing no coercive action in connection with the Lucknow FIR but the bench said, “We will consider it afterwards on the next date.”
The petition filed by advocate Ejaz Maqbool said, “The UP notification selectively prohibits the citizens of this country who are followers of Islamic culture and values from consuming food and using materials which are halal certified/permissible in accordance with Islamic culture and values.”
Stating that the notification ought to be set aside for classifying persons based on religion, the petition termed it “manifestly arbitrary” as it does not bring certifications for Jain, Satvik and even kosher (for Jews) within its purview, indicating that the notification “singles out one certification on the basis of religion”. In Islam, halal signifies products or food items which the Muslims are allowed to consume and use as per the holy Quran, Sharia laws and the Hadith, which from the basis of Islam.
“This has a pan-India effect having an impact on right of consumers of halal products and ramifications of such ban in other states,” Agarwal said. Pursuant to the UP order, the petitioners pointed out that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka has demanded a nationwide ban on halal certification. Union Rural Development minister Giriraj Singh even wrote a letter demanding such ban to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The petition said, “The widespread impact of the notification and the ban on manufacture, sale, storage, and distribution of halal certified products has instilled fear in the populace all across India. The notification and FIR have had nationwide repercussions that have particularly affected the Islamic community and have created apprehension that the practice initiated by UP may be replicated by other states, intensifying the pervasive fear.”
The petitioner was accused of fostering social animosity, with the UP police filing a case for promoting enmity, cheating, forgery, extortion, criminal conspiracy, and other offenses under sections 120-B, 153-A, 298, 384, 420, 467, 468, 471, and 505 of the Indian Penal Code. The petitioner claimed the case against them was “without any iota of truth or evidence”.
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