SC to decide if ban on possession of beef is unconstitutional

Agreeing to apply its judicial mind on the raging cow debate, the Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide on whether ban on mere possession of bovine meat is unconstitutional and infringes on the right to privacy and choice of food of a citizen.

A Bench of justices A.K. Sikri and D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to hear Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh's challenge to a > May 6, 2016, Bombay High Court judgment, which struck down amendments in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1976, banning even the possession of beef brought in from another State where cow slaughter is not illegal.

The high court had held that punishing a person for mere possession of beef amounted to State intrusion into a citizen's right to life and personal liberty — a freedom assured under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, a separate petition was filed in the apex court by a batch of private citizens challenging the same high court judgment of May 6, or at least that of it which upholds Maharashtra ban on cow slaughter.

In the same verdict, while quashing the ban on possession of beef, the High Court had upheld the ban on cow slaughter provided under the very same 1976 Act.

In the latter case, the high court justified its decision in favour of the ban, saying that its purpose was to protect the cow and its progeny and not prevent people from eating beef.

“The State government has justified the prohibition imposed on slaughter of a cow, bull or bullock by contending that the cow progeny excreta is recognised as a source of rich organic manure which enables farmers to avoid the use of chemicals as well as inorganic manure…” the high court had observed.

Challenging this reasoning, the petition filed through senior advocate Indira Jaising, contended that the high court ended up favouring a State law, which robs a large number of the poor their only inexpensive source of protein.

The petition argued that the Maharashtra law's provisions, upheld by the high court, provides a “restriction on the right to food of those for whom beef is an indispensible part of their diet.”

“It results in a discrimination against members of those sections of society who consume beef (predominantly from marginalised sections of society, including members of SCs, STs, OBCs, the Muslim and Christian community,” the petition contended.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 3:29:22 PM |

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