The Bombay high court threw out a clutch of petitions on Monday requesting temporary relief from a ban on the slaughter of bulls and the sale of their meat for this week’s Eid-ul-Zuha, a prohibition introduced by Maharashtra’s BJP-led government that has become a charged issue.
The decision comes in a year when several BJP-ruled states have either brought new laws to ban beef or tightened curbs on killing cattle, with several right-wing organisations supporting these moves while many minority groups and activists have termed such steps a blow to individual freedom and India’s secular fabric.
A division bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice VL Achliya rejected the petitioners’ argument that slaughter of animals and their sacrifice form an essential part of the Muslim community’s religious practice during the festival.
“Can interim relief be granted on the state government's statutory power? If there was power of relaxation under the Act we would have asked the state government to consider it,” the court said. “How do we grant relief without staying the statutory provision?”
Muslims in the country will celebrate Eid-ul-Zuha on September 25 and the festivities will go on for three days.
The court said the matter could be dealt with only after receiving a detailed affidavit from all the respondents and posted it for final hearing on October 12.
India is the world’s second-biggest beef exporter after Brazil, but the BJP and its affiliates have been pushing for a nationwide ban on the slaughter of bovines and especially cows as the animal is considered holy by many Hindus.
Maharashtra extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks in March while Haryana made cow slaughter and beef sale non-bailable offences soon after. Jharkhand and Rajasthan are reportedly considering similar legislation. All these states have BJP governments.