The Bombay High Court has granted permission for the slaughtering of animals during the upcoming Bakri Eid festival, scheduled for June 17, 2024, within the protected area surrounding Vishalgad Fort in Kolhapur District.

This Court made passed the order in response to Writ Petitions challenging a ban imposed by various authorities, including the Director of Archaeology and Museums, Bombay, and local administrative bodies.

The Division Bench of Justice BP Colabawalla and Justice Firdosh P. Pooniwalla issued the interim relief, permitting the petitioners to conduct animal slaughter on the condition that it takes place within closed premises at Gat No. 19, owned by Shri Mubarak Usman Mujawar.

The Court emphasized that no slaughtering should occur in open or public spaces. " least for the festival of Bakri Eid which is on 17th June 2024, and Urus which is till 21st June 2024, the slaughtering of animals by the Petitioners can be permitted. However, we make it clear that the actual killing or sacrifices of animals or birds shall only take place in the closed premises at Gat No. 19 which is a private land owned by Shri Mubarak Usman Mujawar. The killing of animals and birds certainly should not be done in an open place or in a public place," the Bench said.

The controversy arose from communications citing the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules, 1962, which prohibit cooking and consumption of food within protected monuments. The Authorities argued that this prohibition extends to animal slaughter as part of food preparation.

Assistant Government Pleader SD Vyas defended the ban, citing provisions from the Monuments Act, 1960, and the 1962 Rules.

However, the Bench examined these arguments closely and differentiated between a "protected monument" and the surrounding "protected area." Notably, the 333-acre area around Vishalgad Fort is designated as a protected area, where different rules apply compared to those governing protected monuments.

"If we were to hold that the entire area of 333 acres and 19 gunthas was the “protected monument”, then under Rule 8(c), these 107 families, admittedly residing within the area of 333 acres 19 gunthas, would not be allowed either to cook or consume food. This would effectively mean that these 107 families would either have to starve or go outside their homes (beyond 333 acres 19 gunthas) and cook and consume their food. This interpretation would be absurd to say the least." the Court said.

The Court highlighted the practical implications of interpreting the entire area as a protected monument, which would restrict basic daily activities of residents residing within it. The interim order aims to maintain a balance between heritage preservation and community practices, acknowledging that such activities had been permitted without issue for several years. "For 24 years, the authorities did not think that the slaughter being carried on by the Petitioners was either in violation of the Monuments Act, 1960 or the 1962 Rules," the Bench said.

The Bench clarified that the interim relief is specific to addressing the immediate ban challenged by the petitioners and does not exempt them from complying with other legal requirements. "....the interim relief granted by this order, is only for relieving the Petitioner from the ban imposed by the impugned communications. If any other permission is required by any other law, the same will have to be obtained by the Petitioner. If they fail to do so, they will face the consequences thereto," the Court said.

The matter is scheduled for a final hearing on July 11, 2024.

Cause Title: Hajrat Peer Malik Rehan Mira Saheb Dargah, Vishalgad v. The State of Maharashtra & Others along with other connected matters

Click here to read/download the Order