The applicant, Mr. Jakobski, was a Buddhist. While serving his prison service, he requested a meat-free diet. Since the prison doctor found no medical reason for such a diet, it was not provided.
Mr. Jakobski alleged that his freedom of religion has been breached in violation of Article 9 of the Convention.
Article 9 of the Convention lists the various forms which manifestation of one's religion or belief may take, namely worship, teaching, practice and observance. However, it does not protect every act motivated or inspired by a religion or belief. The Court reminded that observing dietary rules can be considered a direct expression of one’s beliefs in practice in the sense of Article 9 therefore there was an interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion. The Court stated that a decision to make special arrangements for one prisoner within the system can have financial implications for the custodial institution and thus indirectly on the quality of treatment of other inmates.
However in the particular case it found that the meals for Mr. Jakobski did not have to be prepared, cooked and served in a prescribed manner, nor did he require any special products. Therefore the Court was not persuaded that the provision of a vegetarian diet to Mr. Jakobski would have entailed any disruption to the management of the prison or to any decline in the standards of meals served to other prisoners. Thus the Court found that the state has failed to strike a fair balance between the interests of the prison administration and the freedom of religion of Mr. Jakobski in violation of Article 9 of the Convention.