New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered that no coercive steps were to be taken against Halal India Limited and Jamiat Ulama Maharashtra in connection with a criminal case pending against them in Uttar Pradesh over the ban on halal-certified products.
A bench of justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta passed the order after the two organisations filed an application pointing out that on January 25 this year, the top court had extended protection from arrest to Jamiat Ulama e-Hind trust and its office bearers, including former Rajya Sabha member Mahmood Madani in connection with the same case. However, similar relief was denied to them when the Court issued notice on their petitions on January 5 challenging the ban on halal-certified products.
The bench said, “We will pass the same order as we issued in the other petition.” The order passed on January 25 said, “No coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioner and the office bearers in connection with a criminal case lodged by Hazratganj police station in Lucknow on November 17, 2023.”
The trust had informed the top court through advocate MR Shamshad that all necessary documents were supplied to the police, which still insisted on the personal presence of the president of the trust, Mahmood Madani.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran had approached the top court last week and said that the police has sought the personal presence of the persons concerned with the running of Halal India Limited and Jamiat Ulama i-Maharashtra. It was on his request that the matter was listed on Monday.
Petitions by both the Halal India Limited, which engages in production of halal-certified products, and Jamiat Ulama e-Maharashtra, the state branch of the Muslim scholar body Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, had challenged the UP government’s ban of November 18, 2023 on manufacturing, storage, sale and distribution of halal-certified food products.
The criminal case was lodged a day before the ban was imposed. The complaint alleged that the accused organisations were attracting consumers “of a particular religion” to create profits by “fraudulently” providing Halal certification to certain products. The FIR alleged that the process of halal certification undertaken by the petitioner does not have any legal basis and is based on “forged documentation”. The complaint also alleged that the issuing Halal certification has an “adversarial impact” on the business prospects of the other religious community as halal certification was also issued for beauty products, oils, soaps, toothpaste, honey, etc.
The Halal India petition filed by advocate Ejaz Maqbool said, “The UP notification selectively prohibits the citizens of this country who are followers of Islamic culture and values from consuming food and using materials which are halal certified/permissible in accordance with Islamic culture and values.”
Challenging the notification for classifying persons based on religion, the petition questioned why the notification does not include certifications for Jain, Satvik and even kosher (for Jews) within its purview and termed the notification “arbitrary” for singling out one certification on the basis of religion.
In Islam, halal signifies products or food items which the Muslims are allowed to consume and use as per the holy Quran, Sharia laws and the Hadith, which form the basis of Islam.
The Muslims organisations told the Court that the ban imposed by UP government has a “pan-India effect”. Pursuant to the UP order, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka had demanded a nationwide ban on halal certification. Union Rural Development minister Giriraj Singh even wrote a letter demanding such ban to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The petition said, “The widespread impact of the notification and the ban on manufacture, sale, storage, and distribution of halal certified products has instilled fear in the populace all across India. The notification and FIR have had nationwide repercussions that have particularly affected the Islamic community and have created apprehension that the practice initiated by UP may be replicated by other states, intensifying the pervasive fear.”
The FIR against the organisations accused them of fostering social animosity with the UP police under offences of promoting enmity, cheating, forgery, extortion, criminal conspiracy among other offences registered under the relevant provisions of 120-B, 153-A, 298, 384, 420, 467, 468, 471 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code. The petitioners claimed the case against them was “without any iota of truth or evidence” and was totally malicious and baseless.