After the long pending assent of the President of India to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995 was received on 26 February 2015, the existing Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 was amended to grant the ‘bulls’ and ‘bullocks’ the same protection as was to the cows while at the same time making the punishments more severe.
Though the cow-beef was already banned in Maharashtra, the amendment also bans the consumption, possession or export of beef from bulls and bullocks. Buffalo beef can still be legally consumed as per the previous law.
The important provisions of the amended legislation are:
Section 5 – Prohibition of slaughter of cows, bull or bullock
Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force or any usage or custom to the contrary, no person shall slaughter or cause to be slaughtered or offer for slaughter any cow, bull or bullock in any place in the State of Maharashtra. (amended portion underlined)
5A. Prohibition on transport and export of cow, bull or bullock for slaughter.-
(1) No person shall transport or offer for transport or cause to be transported cow, bull or bullock from any place within the State to any place outside the State for the purpose of its slaughter in contravention of the provisions of this Act or with the knowledge that it will be or is likely to be, so slaughtered.
(2) No person shall export or cause to be exported outside the State of Maharashtra cow, bull or bullock for the purpose of slaughter either directly or through his agent or servant or any other person acting on his behalf, in contravention of the provisions of this Act or with the knowledge that it will be or is likely to be slaughtered.
5B. Prohibition on sale, purchase, disposal in any other manner of cow, bull or bullock:
No person shall purchase, sell or otherwise dispose of or offer to purchase, sell or otherwise dispose of any cow, bull or bullock for slaughter or knowing or having reason to believe that such cow, bull or bullock shall be slaughtered.
5C. Prohibition on possession of flesh of cow bull or bullock.-
Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force no person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered in contravention of the provisions of this Act.
5D. Prohibition on possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the State of Maharashtra.-
No person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the State of Maharashtra.
As of 7 April 2015, four petitions have been filed before the Bombay High Court challenging the amendment. These include:
Haresh Jagtiani, Sr. Adv
1. Arif Usman Kapadia v. State of Maharashtra – Writ Petition No. 777 of 2015
2. Haresh M. Jagtiani v. State of Maharashtra – Writ Petition No. 982 of 2015
Haresh M. Jagitani is a Senior Advocate who practices at Bombay High Court. Through his Writ Petition he has challenged the constitutionality of Sections 5D and 9A of the Act and has claimed that they violate the fundamental rights of life, liberty and choice.[HT]
3. Vishal Seth & Ors v. State of Maharashtra – Writ Petition No. 790 of 2015
Vishal Sheth, a local lawyer Fort and Shaina Sen, a student have filed the petition seeking protection of their right to quality of life ingrained in their choice of source of nutrition, and as a “cultural minority” among Hindus who consume beef. The petition challenges the view that the Constitution allows the beef ban and extensively refers to parliamentary debates to claim that a ban on bulls and bullocks was excluded. The duo has contended that the ban on beef, especially criminalizing its possession, violated their fundamental rights—the right to quality of life under Articles 21 and 29 that bars discrimination against minorities by race, language, religion or culture. [Times of India]
4. Ketan K Tirodkar v. State of Maharashtra – PIL No. 34 of 2015
6 April 2015
The first two petitions were listed before a division bench of Bombay High Court comprising of Justice VM Kanade and Justice AR Joshi. Appearing for the government, Advocate General of Maharashtra – Sunil Manohar submitted that the ban was meant not just to protect cows, bullocks and bulls in the interest of the agrarian economy, but also to instill in citizens “a sense of compassion towards all living beings” and that ban on possession and consumption of beef was incidental to the prohibition on slaughter.
Why has the state banned only cows, bulls and bullocks? What about other animals like goat?
To which Manohar replied
This is just the start (banning of cows, bulls and bullocks). We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks”.
On the issue of prohibition on import, Court asked:
Section 5(d) of the Act which is under challenge does not prohibit slaughter of cattle outside the state. Why should a person be prevented to eat or possess beef that has been slaughtered outside? Indirectly you (government) are prohibiting slaughter of animals outside the state too?
Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that if the object of the act was to preserve cattle in Maharashtra, then import of meat should be allowed.
Advocate General objected stating:
How can the state say slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra amounts to cruelty but one can slaughter outside the state. That would also amount to cruelty. The Act incidentally prohibits import also.
Advocate General justified the amendment claiming it was done as per the Constitutional principles and to ensure prevention of cruelty to animals.
The court asked the State of Maharashtra to file its reply affidavit to the writ petitions and adjourned the matter.
29 April 2015
Bombay High Court directed the State Government not to initiate any prosecution under the amendment act till teh disposal of the petitions. However the Court refused to stay the operation of the Act.
Stage Government shall not take any coercive steps for the purpose of initiating any prosecution of those who are found to be in possession of the beef from the date of publication of the Act in the Gazette i.e. 04/03/2015 and for a period of three months from today till the disposal of these petitions whichever is later. It is, however, clarified that we are not granting any stay to the impugned provisions of Section 5D and, therefore, import of beef after the Act has come into operation is prohibited. However, possession of the beef from the date of publication of the Act in the Gazette i.e. 04/03/2015 and for a period of three months from today till the disposal of these petitions is not prosecutable by the State. Though FIR may be registered, no coercive steps be taken. The State Authorities and Police Authorities, therefore, shall not invade privacy of citizens for the purpose of finding out as to what is in their with connected writ petitions possession whether beef or other form of meat. At the highest, if it is found that illegal slaughtering of bulls and bullocks is being made then FIR may be registered against such individuals.
Court has now listed the matter for final disposal on 25 June 2015
Image from here