The Bombay high court on Thursday reserved order on a plea seeking stay on two provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976, which imposes a ban on possession of bovine meat.
The division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice MS Sonak is likely to pass interim orders on three petitions challenging the validity of sections 5(d) and 9(a) of the Act, on Monday or Tuesday.
While section 5(d) prohibits possession of beef imported from other states or foreign countries, section 9(a) penalises such possession by providing imprisonment for up to one year, and fine of Rs2,000. Both provisions have been introduced by the 1995 amendment, to which presidential assent was granted in February 2015. The petitioners – Haresh Jagtiani, Arif Usman Kapadia and another group of 30 people – have challenged the constitutional validity of these two sections, contending the provisions had no rational nexus with the intent of the legislation – to protect cow progeny in the interest of Maharashtra’s agrarian economy – and that the provisions violated the choice of food of individuals, which has been recognised by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right.
Counsel for Kapadia, advocate Pheroze Bharucha, contended the real purpose behind introducing the two provisions was to prevent the people of Maharashtra from eating beef. Senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, who represented Jagtiani, submitted that the ban on possession was a “pervasive and drastic” encroachment of the fundamental right of the choice of food of individuals. The senior advocate pointed out that for the past 20 years, slaughter of bulls and bullocks was permitted in Maharashtra and last year, 39,000 metric tonnes was consumed.
He submitted that no particulars or reasons have been cited by the government as to why the fundamental right to choice of food has been curtailed, and urged the court to stay the implementation of both the sections.