As the state government issued a notification enforcing the ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks, it has become clear that eating the banned meat could also attract punishment.
However, there is ambiguity over the scope of action that can be taken for consumption of beef under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act (MAPA), as the law is silent on this. However, since the possession, sale or purchase of the meat of cows, bulls and bullocks is banned, consuming it could also amount to the violation of the provisions of the Act, which got the President’s nod recently.
The state government issued the notification on Wednesday, and the provisions came into effect immediately. Section 5 of the Act clearly states: “No person shall transport, offer/cause to transport, export the cow, bull or bullock for the purpose of slaughter. No person shall purchase, sell or otherwise dispose of cow, bull or bullock for slaughter. No person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered.”
Officials from the animal husbandry department admitted that there was ambiguity over action against individuals consuming beef at home, a hotel or restaurant. “The customer of a hotel may face action as he is also in possession of the food prepared from the slaughter. It would be up to the enforcement authorities and the court to interpret the provisions and decide if they hold the customers guilty for possession and purchase of the beef,” he said.
Animal husbandry and dairy development minister Eknath Khadse told HT, “There is no question of consumption of beef, as it may amount to possession and purchase and may invite action for the violation of the Act.” He said the government has made provisions of Rs90 crore for the maintenance of the unproductive cows and their progeny and responsibility will be taken by the government with the help of NGOs.
The state government has claimed that figures quoted by beef dealers and traders were exaggerated. “There is no question of 1 crore people becoming unemployed, as the slaughterhouses do not employ that many people. They have other options open as only bulls and bullocks have been banned from slaughter,” said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Mohammed Ali Qureshi, president of Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers Association, said Mumbai alone consumes 1.80 lakh kg beef a day and 80 of it is from bulls and bullocks.