Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Saturday constituted a three-member bench to address the beef ban issue that had snowballed into a major political controversy. The Registrar General issued a notification and constituted “full bench” comprising, Justice Ali Mohammad Magray, Justice Tashi Rabstan and Justice Muzuffar Attar. Last week, Supreme Court in its order had asked chief justice J&K High Court to set up the bench at Srinagar and place before it both the matters in which two “conflicting” orders were passed in September. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Amitava Roy said that in view of the “conflicting” orders by the two high court benches, the chief justice shall constitute a larger bench to examine all contentions. Earlier in its petition in the Supreme Court, the state had contended that the two conflicting orders have grave ramifications for the law and order since the orders were being misused so as to disturb peace in the state. J&K High Court had already granted three weeks time to the state government to file its response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that challenged the cow slaughter Act in the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). On September 17, High Court had issued notice to the state government after a PIL was admitted in the court. The PIL was filed by a retired law professor Afzal Qadri, in which he had challenged the constitutional validity of RPC sections 298-A and 298-B, which regulate the ban on bovine slaughter and beef sale in Jammu and Kashmir. While section 298-A of the RPC makes killing of bovine animals a punishable offence, the 298-B makes “possession of any slaughtered animal” a punishable act in the state. In September, a division bench of High Court comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Janak Raj Kotwal had ordered the government to strictly enforce the ban on sale of beef across the state, leading to widespread opposition and started a political controversy in the state. Opposition National Conference, independent legislator, Sheikh Abdul Rashid and CPI (M) legislator, Mohammad Yusuf Taragami also submitted separate bills in the state assembly secretariat seeking to scrap the ban on beef in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the bills were not taken up for the discussion in the assembly. The opposition blamed the ruling PDP –BJP alliance for sabotaging the bill in the assembly.
2015 Kashmir Despatch