Mumbai: Amid a raging controversy over the four-day meat ban in Mumbai, the civic authorities on Friday decided to reduce the number of days to two.
The decision was taken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation amid severe protests by political parties and a petition challenging the move in court by mutton traders.
The decision came as the Bombay High Court this morning used strong words to criticise the ban in "progressive" Mumbai and berated the civic body.
"There is a progressive look to Mumbai. These are regressive steps. We understand the sentiment part. But purchase is an independent choice," the court said.
Mutton traders of Mumbai had challenged the four-day ban that started yesterday for the Jain festival of fasting, Paryushan, amid protests by some parties, including the ruling BJP's ally Shiv Sena.
The BJP wants the ban extended to eight days, but the Sena says it will ensure meat is openly sold and eaten in the financial capital on the days of the ban.
The ban during the Jain fast was introduced in 1994 by the then Congress government. Ten years later, the two-day ban was extended to four days. Mutton traders argued that the ban had never really been implemented until now.
"All these years you only banned slaughter not sale. How can you take this decision at the 11th hour?" the court asked the civic body.
During the hearing, the Maharashtra government also faced questions about the logic of the ban. "When you are talking of Ahimsa, how come fish, sea food and eggs are not banned?" the judges asked.
"Fish die the moment they are out of water. So there is no slaughter involved," said the government's top lawyer, Anil Singh.The sentiment, he explained to the court, was that there should be no slaughter.
"We have to change our attitude in view of globalisation," said the judges, who had yesterday commented that "an eight-day straight ban can't be a formula. Mumbai is a modern city."
Strongly defending its move, the government argued: "A Supreme Court judgement says that we have to respect the sentiments of a particular community. It doesn't matter if Jains are fewer in number in Mumbai."
Like Opposition parties the Congress and the NCP, the Shiv Sena has alleged a political move by the BJP to appease the Jain community in Mumbai, with an eye on elections to the civic body in 2017.