The Supreme Court on Monday kept in abeyance for two months an order passed by the Jammu Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to ban cow slaughter and sale of beef in the State.
Putting the ban on hold, a bench of Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice to set up a three-judge bench to consider the issues afresh and take a decision.
On September 8, the High Court at Jammu had sought the strict implementation of certain provisions in the Ranbir Penal Code under which the intentional killing or slaughter of cow or a like animal is a non-bailabale offence. The order had led to widespread anguish and protests in the State.
Subsequently, on September 16, the High Court's Srinagar Bench issued notice on a separate petition to strike down the very same Ranbir Penal Code provisions banning bovine slaughter.
The two contrary views taken by the same High Court created confusion in the State government, following which it moved the Supreme Court for a sense of finality on the law.
However, the Chief Justice's Bench refused to intervene despite entreaties from senior advocate Amarendra Sharan, appearing for the State government. Mr. Sharan submitted that the uncertainty created by the two conflicting judicial orders has put the State on the boil.
“The Supreme Court should decide this issue... it is very, very sensitive,” Mr. Sharam stressed, but to no avail.
The September 8 order was a reiteration of a colonial provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). Under section 298A of the RPC, intentionally killing or slaughtering a cow or like animal (including ox and buffalo) is a cognisable, non-bailable offence punishable with 10 years imprisonment and fine.
Under section 298B, possessing the flesh of such an animal is a cognisable, non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment of one year and fine.
The State's petition in the Supreme Court contended that the two mutually conflicting orders of the High Court posed grave ramifications for its communal harmony and peaceful fabric.
"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 and thereto alienating the people of the State from national mainstream," the petition said.