Beef brought into Maharashtra from outside the State can be possessed and consumed, the Bombay High Court ruled on Friday, although the ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in the State is to continue.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S. C. Gupte upheld the validity of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 and called it “constitutional and legal,” but struck down two provisions of the law.
Right to privacy
The court said Section 5 (d) (which prohibits possession of the flesh from outside the State) “infringes a person’s right to privacy” and struck it down. The court also said section 9 (b) (which penalises possession of beef by providing for imprisonment of up to one year and fine of Rs. 2,000) was “unconstitutional and violative of Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian Constitution.” The court thus decriminalised possession of the flesh of cows, bulls and bullocks.
The court was hearing a set of petitions that challenged section 5 (a) of the Act which prohibits transport or export of cows, bulls or bullocks for slaughter, and similar prohibitions contained in section 5 (b) (sale, purchase, distribution in any other manner of cows, bulls and bullocks), section 5 (c) (possession of the flesh of cows, bulls or bullocks), section 5 (d) (possession of flesh from outside the State) and section 9 which empowers police to search and seize cattle suspected to be taken for slaughter and also penalise with imprisonment and fine.
The court upheld the power of a competent authority to enter, stop and search any vehicle used for the export of cow, bull or bullock and seize it. The court also upheld the provision that no prohibited animal can be transported for slaughter or with the knowledge or likelihood of it being slaughtered and the ban on purchase, sale or disposal of flesh.
In its 245-page order, the court said: “No one has told us of there being any way of distinguishing the flesh of cow, bull or bullock from the flesh of other bovine species, e.g. buffalo. It is inconceivable that an ordinary consumer would know the difference.”