On February 12, the Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh Police made a significant breakthrough in a halal certification investigation by apprehending four individuals associated with the Mumbai-based Halal Council of India. The arrests were made on allegations of issuing counterfeit certificates.
The investigation traces back to November 2023, when an FIR was lodged in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, targeting three companies, including the Halal Council of India, for their involvement in the illicit issuance of halal certifications for goods distributed within the state. Subsequently, the case was transferred to the STF from the jurisdiction of Lucknow Police for further scrutiny.
The four arrested individuals, identified as Maulana Habib Yusuf Patel (president), Maulana Moidsheer Sapadia (vice-president), Mohammad Tahir Zakir Hussain Chauhan (general secretary), and Mohammad Anwar (treasurer), were taken into custody following an extensive interrogation conducted at their office premises in Lucknow. Various documents, such as Aadhar cards, debit cards, PAN cards, mobile phones, and a sum of cash, were seized during the operation.
According to police statements, the suspects admitted to furnishing “halal certificates” to numerous enterprises across the state. The Halal Council of India stands accused of illicitly providing certifications for both meat and non-meat products without proper authorisation from regulatory bodies such as the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies or any other government agency.
Investigative findings reveal a lack of adherence to standardised procedures, as no laboratory testing was conducted prior to certification issuance. Furthermore, certificates were extended to restaurants without oversight of their food preparation processes. Financial irregularities were also noted, with ambiguous records of income and expenditure.
The modus operandi of the firm involved levying an annual fee of Rs 10,000 for certification, coupled with an additional Rs 1,000 per product. Strikingly, these certifications were conferred without undergoing any substantive testing or validation of the production processes involved.
The arrests signify a crucial breakthrough in the crackdown on fraudulent halal certification practices, emphasising the importance of regulatory oversight in ensuring the integrity of such certifications within the market.
UP govt’s crackdown on Halal products
In a decisive move in November 2023, the Uttar Pradesh government under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a sweeping prohibition on halal-certified food products across the state. The ban encompassed the criminalisation of all activities related to the production, storage, distribution, and sale of halal-certified food items, with the exception of those intended for export.
Following the implementation of the ban, multiple firms, including Halal India Pvt Ltd (Chennai), Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust (Delhi), Jamiat Ulema (Mumbai), and Halal Council of India (Mumbai), among others, found themselves embroiled in legal proceedings. An FIR was filed against these entities under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 120-B, 153-A, 298, 384, 420, 467, 468, 471, and 505.
The FIR stemmed from a complaint lodged by an individual from Lucknow, who alleged that certain firms were engaged in the issuance of fraudulent halal certificates. The complainant contended that these certificates, predominantly targeting a specific community, were resulting in a detrimental impact on the sales of products lacking such certification.
Specifically, the complaint highlighted the issuance of halal certificates for non-meat products, citing concerns regarding its adverse effects on the commercial interests of other religious communities. Products ranging from oils, soaps, toothpaste, honey, flour, and more were identified as receiving “halal certification,” amplifying the scope of the ban’s impact on consumer goods.
Supreme Court upheld Halal certifications
On February 12, the Supreme Court of India intervened to safeguard halal certification entities, such as Halal India Limited and Jamiat Ulama, from facing coercive actions amidst ongoing legal proceedings. This directive follows a similar protection granted to Jamiat Ulama e-Hind Trust earlier on January 25th, after they sought refuge from legal repercussions. Despite a prior appeal filed in the Sessions Court of Lucknow for safeguarding measures, the petitioners failed to secure relief. Notably, Jamiat Ulama e-Hind is presided over by former Rajya Sabha member Mahmood Madani.
The bench, consisting of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta, issued an order stating, “We will pass the same order as we issued in the other petition. 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.”
Muslim organisations, representing the interests of halal certification firms, expressed concerns that the ban imposed on halal products in Uttar Pradesh could reverberate nationwide. They argued before the court, “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.”