The Bombay High Court on May 6 upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks imposed by BJP-led Government in Maharashtra. However, it decriminalised possession of beef where animals are slaughtered outside the state.
It struck down as “unconstitutional” provisions which held mere possession of beef as crime, saying only “conscious possession” of the meat of animals slaughtered in the state will be held as an offence.
The ruling means now the burden of proving innocence will not be on individuals and the onus to prove that the law was violated lies on the prosecution.
In February 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee had granted 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 banned slaughter of bulls and bullocks, previously permitted on a fit-for-slaughter certificate.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte struck down sections 5(d) and 9 (b) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef of animals, slaughtered in the state or outside, saying it infringes upon a person’s Right to Privacy.
The order came on a bunch of petitions filed in the high court challenging the constitutional validity of the Act.
“There is no reason for the state of Maharashtra to be worried as to whether there are enough cows, bulls and bullocks in Ireland or for that matter some other country or some other state in India,” senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, who represented one of the petitioners, said.
Chinoy pointed out that in several other states there was a ban on the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks, but there was no ban on import of beef from other states or other countries. He said section 5(d) curtails the fundamental right of choice of food of citizens, covered under the right to liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.