While the Maharashtra government has done virtually nothing to introduce modern methods of agriculture, and farmers in the state have adopted modern technology on their own, the ban on bovine slaughter indirectly compels them to stick to age-old practices, a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in Bombay high court alleges.
The PIL filed by Mumbai residents Vishal Sheth, Shaina Sen and Akshay Kolse-Patil has challenged the constitutional validity of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, which imposes ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks. The parent legislation enacted in 1976 prohibits slaughter of cows.
The PIL contended that the ban not just infringes constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the citizens, but also indirectly compels the farming community to stick to old and traditional agricultural methods, at a time when farmers from Vidarbha and western Maharashtra region have started using large tractors and harvesters for cultivation of their lands.
The use of machinery has reduced the dependency of the farming sector on human and draught cattle, it said.
The state government has relied on Article 48 of the Constitution of India while imposing the ban. The Article says the state should try to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps to preserve and improve the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.
Referring to this, the PIL contended that while framing the Article, the makers of the Constitution did consider including bulls and bullocks in the provision, but after deliberations refused to do so, and therefore it was not open to the state government to impose the ban.
It further contended that the ban affected the rights of consumers of beef and deprived them of a source of food or protein, and hence it directly infringed the right to life and liberty.
Goregaon resident Arif Usman Kapadia has also filed a PIL before the court. In the PIL filed through advocate Pratap Nimbalkar, the petitioner has sought permission to import beef from other states where slaughtering of bulls and bullocks is permitted.
A division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice AR Joshi has posted the PILs for hearing on Monday.