The story so far: On November 18, the Uttar Pradesh Government’s Food Security and Drug Administration banned the “manufacture, sale, storage and distribution of halal-certified products with immediate effect”. Halal, an Arabic term, means ‘permissible’, as opposed to notions of haram (prohibited) in Islam. A halal certificate means the product is fit to be consumed by followers of the faith. It is particularly relevant for meat items and is considered essential while exporting meat to Muslim countries. Following the order, units of police raided various malls across U.P. to seize any halal products.
Why was it banned?
The quick action to raid malls followed a complaint lodged in Lucknow by an office bearer of the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wherein the complainant accused several halal certifying outfits of issuing “forged” certificates to “increase their sale among a certain community”. They, in the process, violated “public trust” and created “social animosity”, it was alleged. Though many read in the government’s step, yet another action aimed at marginalising the State’s Muslim community, the government insisted it had acted according to the law and fair trade practices.
How are halal certificates issued?
Halal certificates are given by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s Halal Unit and the Halal Shariat Islamic Law Board, both of whom have been cleared by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies. While the Shariat Islamic Law Board enjoys permission for certifying food products, the Jamiat’s unit can certify only meat.
These agencies have slammed the decision to ban Halal-certified products. Leading the way, the Jamiat claimed the government had not sent “any notice or circular before the move” and dubbed it “ridiculous and unfortunate”. Expressing a desire to explore legal options, including considering the government’s action as an infringement upon citizens’ fundamental right to eat what is permissible by faith, the Jamiat insisted it ticks all the boxes when it comes to fulfilling the norms set by the government for issuing halal certificates. “We adhere to government regulations, as emphasised in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry notification, requiring all Halal certification bodies to be registered with NABCB (National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies under Quality Council of India), a milestone that Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust has achieved. Collaborating closely with APEDA (Agricultural Products Exports Development Authority of India) and Indian embassies worldwide, we promote Indian Halal certified products in global markets... It’s essential to note that all financial transactions are duly accounted for, with proper GST and income tax payments and thorough auditing, ensuring complete legality and transparency in our operations,” the Jamiat said in a written statement.
What about export products?
Significantly, the ban was imposed only on sales, manufacture and storage within Uttar Pradesh and not meant for export products. “As of now, there is no ban on Halal certification for export products. Our Halal unit has been giving certificates only for export purposes,” a Jamiat official said, adding, “It is a misconception that we give Halal certificates for vegetarian products. It is aimed at maligning us.”
Meanwhile, the retailers, whose business was thrown into a chaos due to the hastily imposed ban, revealed that while many vegetarian food items carry Halal certificates when exported to Muslim countries, at times, the packages exceeded the number of export items. Those extra packages were at times used in the domestic market. The products were vegetarian anyway, and hence unlikely to hurt anyone’s sentiments.
What has the government done?
Within a week of the announcement of the ban, the State government gave a belated breathing period to all concerned. It allowed retailers 15 days to withdraw any such food items from their shelves. It asked the 92 state-based manufacturers who had been getting halal certification from non-certified organisations, to recall and repackage their products.
- Halal certificates are given by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s Halal Unit and the Halal Shariat Islamic Law Board, both of whom have been cleared by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies.
- Significantly, the ban was imposed only on sales, manufacture and storage within Uttar Pradesh and not meant for export products.
- Within a week of the announcement of the ban, the State government gave a belated breathing period to all concerned.