‘How can you decide what I eat? Because someone in power thinks…?: Gujarat HC

'How can you decide what I eat? Because someone in power thinks...?: Gujarat HC over non vegetarian food ban

“You don’t like non-veg food, it is your lookout. How can you decide what people should eat outside? How can you stop people from eating what they want?”, asks Gujarat High Court to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation while hearing a plea filed by street vendors who have been prohibited from selling non-vegetarian food on the streets of Ahmedabad.

Justice Biren Vaishnav asked whether the civic body was following the wishes of the party in power.

“How can you decide what people should eat? Suddenly because someone in power thinks that this is what they want to do? Tomorrow you will decide what I should eat outside my house? Tomorrow they will tell me that I should not consume sugarcane juice because it might cause diabetes or that coffee is bad for my health,” the court continued.

On Thursday, the Gujarat High Court came down heavily on Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and instructed it to consider the cases “as expeditiously as possible” if approached by the vendors within a day for the release of their goods.

The judge asked, “Ask your Corporation Commissioner to be present! How do you dare indiscriminately pick up people?”

Last month, municipal corporations in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Vadodara cities, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had ordered that street vendors selling non-vegetarian food be evicted, claiming that such dishes hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.

Following the directions, thousands of “handcarts were impounded without any rhyme or reason throughout the state,” said the petition of street vendors selling non-vegetarian food. “No due process was followed during the action,” they alleged.

The petition requested the Gujarat High Court to direct the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation as well as the Gujarat government to permit the selling of non-vegetarian dishes.

The vendors had said that selling non-vegetarian food on the streets does not harm anybody’s rights.

“A vegetarian might find [the] consumption of non-vegetarian food offensive whereas a vegan might find [the] consumption of milk, cheese, and honey as offensive… As long as a person doesn’t violate any law, he/she must be free to sell anything under the right to livelihood guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” read the petition.

Street vendors also pointed at the lack of implementation of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, in Gujarat.

The civic authority’s action, according to the petition, is arbitrary. They also said that they were badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

A majority of vendors in Gujarat who sell non-vegetarian food are either Muslims, Dalits, or Adivasis.

Non-vegetarian eateries, mainly run by Muslims and especially in BJP-governed states, have been facing increasing pressure from the party and Hindu supremacist groups affiliated with it.