Beef Ban : The Bombay High Court on Friday upheld the state government’s ban on slaughter of cows and bullocks in Maharashtra.
But, Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte, struck down a statute that sought to criminalise possession of beef, saying possession would not attract charges if brought from outside the state.
In February last year, Maharashtra government enforced a beef ban after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act (MAPA Act).
The slaughter of cows was already prohibited in the state under Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976. The new Act also bans slaughter of bulls and bullocks, previously permitted on a fit-for-slaughter certificate.
Under the new Act, slaughter of livestock was to attract a five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine while possession of meat would attract one-year in jail and Rs 2,000 fine.
The bench were hearing a petition filed by a Hindu-Muslim-Christian coalition of 29 Mumbai residents, had sought an interim stay on section 5 (d) of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act (MAPA).
This provision made it a criminal and cognisable offence to possess beef, even if the animal was slaughtered outside Maharashtra where it is legally permissible, punishable with a jail term of up to one year.
Mumbai resident Arif Kapadia and noted lawyer Harish Jagtiani had challenged the provision which says mere possession of beef anywhere in the state is a crime.
“This is arbitrary and undermines the cosmopolitan nature of the city which houses people from all religions and communities,”
Other petitions were filed by lawyer Vishal Sheth and Shaina Sen, a student, contending that the ban on beef violates the fundamental rights of the citizens.
The petitions had opposed the ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks, and consumption and possession of their meat, introduced under MAPA, even if the animals were slaughtered outside Maharashtra.
According to the petitions, this prohibits import of meat. The petitions had said the ban violates the fundamental rights of a person to have his choice of food.
However, the Advocate General Sunil Manohar argued that consuming beef was not a fundamental right.
During the hearing in January, a division bench of Justices AS Oka and SC Gupte had reserved the ruling in January after hearing the arguments had refused to grant interim stay to the provisions penalising the possession of beef.