A situation may arise where people’s houses are raided and citizens harassed as it will be difficult to distinguish if it was the meat of buffalo or a bull or bullock being eaten, this was the argument finally put forth in a case where the Bombay High Court is dealing with a question of whether or not possession of beef from outside the state should be permitted.
Petitioners have challenged Section 5 D of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995. The provision restricts people from bringing beef from outside the state and consuming it. Under the new law, sale or possession of beef can lead to a five-year jail term and a fine of Rs 10,000.The petitioners also argued on Thursday that the police would enter restaurants and harass citizens.
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Right after the interveners concluded their arguments, the petitioners had one last say in the case. It was then, in a jam-packed courtroom, that senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai and Firoz Bharucha made their final arguments, attempting to counter-argue all the points raised by the state and other contesting parties.
“In the privacy of your home, these kinds of intrusion can be expected. Even when you are in a restaurant having buffalo meat, policeman can come and ask what you are eating,” said Chinoy Similarly when a citizen is at home consuming buffalo meat, there was a possibility that he or she could land in trouble, he said drawing a parallel. He resorted to questioning the state if they would appoint an expert to differentiate the two types of meat — buffalo and beef (cow progeny).
The ban on cow slaughter was enforced two decades ago, but there was no restriction on slaughter and consumption of cow progeny until now, said Chinoy. Reasoning out with the state government, he said why did it not ever say that the ban on cow slaughter was affected because sale of consumption of flesh of bulls and bullocks was allowed.
“Ban on cow slaughter coexisted with the slaughter of bulls and bullocks. Why did not anyone say it was difficult to police the ban?” asked Chinoy.
Without breaking the chain of arguments, Bharucha said, “It is clearly a colourable legislation.”Desai took over from Bharucha saying there was no Assembly debate; no objects and reasons or reports sought before the ban was into practice. He said there were five states in India where beef sale and consumption was banned, but its procurement was allowed. “Why did the state not try these measures and then say look we tried but failed,” he submitted.
Around half a dozen interventions have been filed, contesting the claim of the petitioners in the case. Some of the interventions state that Right to Life and Liberty in the Indian Constitution is applicable to animals as well.
“The choice of food cannot be out of necessity… Humans have no right over the life of animals. Bulls and bullocks are are saying ‘save our lives’,” said an intervening application by ‘Akhil Bharat Krushi Gau Seva Sangh’ and Dr Vinod Kothari, one of the interveners. The state had earlier defended its decision to ban beef in Maharashtra by telling the court that eating it was not a fundamental right.
The HC is likely pronounce its verdict on April 27 or 28.