The Uttarakhand High Court has upheld the ban on shops selling mutton within 500 metres of river Ganga holding that the decision taken by Zila Panchayat by making by-laws to that effect is in conformity with Part IX of the Constitution of India.

Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra while upholding the ban observed –

"…keeping in view the special status of State of Uttarakhand and the river Ganga that emerges from District Uttarkashi and the sanctity attached with the river Ganga by majority of population of Uttarakhand, the decision taken by the Zila Panchayat by making by-laws to the effect that no shop for butchering the animals and selling the meat within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga appears in line with the scheme of Constitution of India, as envisaged in Part IX."

In this case, the Petitioner was running the business of butchering and selling mutton in his own shop situated in District Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. In the year 2016, he received a notice from the Zila Panchayat to shift his mutton shop within 7 days to another place, as his shop is situated 105 metres away from the bank of river Ganga, which is violative of the existing by-laws.

After filing several Petitions before the High Court, the Petitioner represented again before the District Magistrate, Uttarkashi to grant him a no objection certificate which was again rejected. Aggrieved, the Petitioner filed a Writ before the High Court.

Counsel Jitendra Chaudhary appeared for the Petitioner while Additional CSC Yogesh Pandey appeared for the State.

The High Court referred to Part IX of the Constitution while specifically referring to Article 243 which provides for the formation of Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayats and further Article 243G which provides for the powers, authority, and responsibilities of Panchayats.

The Court in this context noted, "Thus, it is apparent from the aforesaid Article that the Constitution recognises the Zila Panchayats, as sovereign authorities, having powers to plan for economic development and social justice, as may be entrusted to them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule. Article 243 G also provides that the Legislature of a State, may by law, endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government. Entry 4 in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution of India provides for animal husbandry, dairying and poultry. Entry 22 provides for markets and fairs. Thus, it is clear that as far as markets and fairs and animal husbandry, dairying and poultry are concerned, the Zila Panchayat, as an institution of self government, may function to regulate animal husbandry etc. as mentioned above."

The Court rejected the contention of the Petitioner that after the passing of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the powers of Zila Panchayat ceased to operate with respect to the food items and held that the Zila Panchayats have been granted powers to act as institutions of self-government, the provisions made by Zila Panchayat has to be harmoniously constructed with the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006.

The Court held that no objection certificate is mandatory to be obtained from Zila Panchayat or the District Magistrate for running a mutton shop in this case. Thus, the District Magistrate, Uttarkashi did not commit any error in not issuing the no objection certificate to the Petitioner to run a mutton shop within 500 metres from the bank of river Ganga.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Writ Petition and held –

"It is observed that any person, who runs a meat shop for selling and butchering the animals in District Uttarkashi, shall obtain no objection certificate from the concerned authority, in the light of by-laws made by the Zila Panchayat and also obtain license from the designated authority."

Cause Title - Navid Qureshi. v. State of Uttarakhand and Others.

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