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Bombay HC upholds validity of Maharashtra Animals Preservation Amendment Act, but with riders

Bombay HC upholds validity of Maharashtra Animals Preservation Amendment Act, but with riders

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court’s decision to uphold the validity of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation Amendment Act is a welcome development, but the court has struck down certain clauses of what is perceived to be a tough law to ensure that the right to privacy is safeguarded as per the Constitution of India.

Last year, the Government of Maharashtra made the sale or possession of beef a punishable offence, and said offenders could attract a five-year jail term or a fine of Rs.10,000.

But in its order of May 6, 2016, the Bombay High Court ruled that it us no longer illegal to possess or eat beef, as long as the product is brought into Maharashtra from outside.The 1976 ban on the slaughtering cows to cover bulls and bullocks, however, remains intact, and the ruling to this effect appears on the court’s website.

A division bench of the Bombay High Court, comprising 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 court described these two sections of the act as unconstitutional.

It was ruling on a bunch of petitions filed in the high court challenging the constitutional validity of the Act and in particular, possession and consumption of beef from animals slaughtered outside Maharashtra. While hearing the petition, the HC had in April last year refused to grant an interim stay on the law, on the issue of possession of beef. Arif Kapadia, a city resident, and noted lawyer Harish Jagtiani challenged the provision of law which said that mere possession of beef in any place in the state is a crime. According to them, this provision of law was arbitrary and hit upon the cosmopolitan nature of the city, which houses people from all religions and communities. The other petitions were filed by Vishal Sheth, a lawyer, and Shaina Sen, a student.

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.” (ANI)