Practise religious tolerance, urges apex court

March 14th, 2008 - 10:31 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday emphasised the need for religious tolerance in the country to preserve its diversity and unity. The apex court delivered the ruling while approving of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) practice of keeping the city’s slaughter houses closed for nine days every year during Paryushan ceremony of the Jain community and banning the sale of the meat in the city during those days.

The ruling was delivered by a bench of Justice H.K Sema and Justice Markandey Katju on a petition by Ahmedabad-based Hinsa Virodhak Samaj of Jain communities challenging an Gujarat High Court ruling which had declared the municipal corporation order to keep the slaughter houses out of respect for Jain sentiments as “illegal and unconstitutional.”

The high court had ruled that the AMC order violated the butchers’ fundamental right to carry out their business and profession during Paryushan during which Jains observe fast.

“For a long period slaughter houses have been closed in Gujarat for a few days out of respect for the sentiments of the Jain community, which has a sizable population in Gujarat and Rajasthan. We see nothing unreasonable in this restriction,” the bench said in its 36-page order.

“It is a short restriction for a few days and surely the non-vegetarians can remain vegetarian for this short period. Also, the traders in meat of Ahmedabad will not suffer much merely because their business has been closed down for nine days in a year. There is no prohibition to their business for the remaining 356 days in a year,” the bench held, endorsing the AMC practice.

“In a country like ours with such diversity, one should not be over sensitive and over touchy about a short restriction when it is being done out of respect for the sentiments of a particular section of society,” the bench observed.

“Even the great Emperor Akbar himself used to remain a vegetarian for a few days every week out of respect for the vegetarian section of the Indian society and out of respect for his Hindu wife. We too should have similar respect for the sentiments for others, even if they are a minority sect,” the bench said.

Having aid that the bench, went on to make a strong pitch for religious tolerance in society. The judgement was written by Justice Katju.

Recalling the history of Jain influence over Emperor Akbar, the bench said, “Emperor Akbar himself abstained from eating meat on Fridays and Sundays and on some other days, as has been mentioned in the Ain-I-Akbari by Abul Fazl.”

“If the Emperor Akbar could forbid meat eating for six months in a year in Gujarat, is it unreasonable to abstain from meat for nine days in a year in Ahmedabad today?,” the bench asked.

Praising Akbar for his religious tolerance and being “far ahead of even the Europeans of his times,” Justice Katju said “We are making these comments because what we are noticing nowadays is a growing tendency of intolerance in our country.”

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