MUMBAI: In a relief to meat sellers in the neighbouring Palghar district, the Bombay High Court today stayed a notice issued to them by the civic body concerned asking them to shut shop on suspicion that they had been selling beef.
A bench of justices A S Oka and P N Deshmukh asked whether mere suspicion was a valid ground to suspend the licences of the meat sellers, who had apparently not breached any terms and conditions of their licences.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by about 20 meat sellers from the Palghar's Nallasopara area, challenging a notice issued to them on December 16, 2017, by the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC).
"On what basis has the corporation suspended the licences. On mere suspicion? Is it a common practice to go about suspending licences even if there is no apparent breach of terms and conditions?" the bench asked.
Through the notice, the civic body had informed the petitioners that their licences to sell meat had been suspended until further notice.
The VVMC had also written to the local police asking them to help ensure that the petitioners did not keep their shops open.
As per the VVMC, on December 15-16 last year, it seized around 550 kgs of beef from the area where the meat shops are located.
Since any slaughter and sale of beef across Maharashtra is illegal, the civic body initiated an inquiry.
Suspecting that the beef might have come from one of the local meat sellers, it suspended the licences of all meat sellers in and around the locality.
The petitioners, however, denied that they were involved in the matter.
They also said the VVMC's notice did not even make any allegations that they had breached their licence terms, or they had been found selling anything illegal.
They said the notice simply revoked their licences and asked them to shut shop.
"We are aware that some illegal slaughter and sale of beef is rampant in the locality. We have no role in it," the petitioners' lawyer, Drupad Patil, told the HC.
"We are licensed meat sellers and sell only the meat that is permitted by the state. We purchase such meat from a licensed slaughterhouse in Thane," the petitioners said.
They also submitted receipts for the meat that they purchased from the adjoining Thane district.
Taking note of the above, the bench, in an interim order, stayed the VVMC's notice and also directed that no coercive action be taken against the petitioners.
"First of all there is no allegation in the notice that the petitioners have committed any breach of licence terms," the bench said.
"Secondly, there is no proof that they were found to be selling beef. The notice (issued by the VVMC suspending the licences) is ex-facie illegal," the high court said.