The Bombay high court on Wednesday refused to stay a law passed by the Maharashtra government under which people found in possession of beef can be jailed for five years.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and MS Sonak also directed the state government not to take any coercive steps against persons found in possession of beef from legally slaughtered animals for three months or till the court disposed of petitions that it is hearing.
The bench said authorities should not act even if FIRs are registered for violating the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. The judges further said that no FIRs should be registered for possession of beef.
The court refused to stay two provisions of the law primarily in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling that operation of an enactment should not be stayed unless it is manifestly unjust or glaringly unconstitutional.
The bench said the petitioners had raised arguable points but had not shown that the provisions were unjust or unconstitutional.
The court faulted the state for imposing the ban overnight. The judges noted that in several other instances of a complete ban being imposed, reasonable time was always been given to citizens to dispose of banned products.
In this case, the ban was imposed suddenly and what was legal became unlawful and punishable, the bench said.
The court gave its interim order in response to two petitions that challenged the validity of Section 5(d) of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which prohibits the possession of beef, and Section 9(a) that criminalises the possession.
The law imposing a complete ban on the slaughter of cows was passed in 1976 and amendments imposing a complete ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks were passed by the Maharashtra assembly in 1995. The amendments received Presidential assent on February 26 this year and the amendments were brought into force by notifying them in the official gazette on March 4.
Those found in possession of beef can be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000.