The Gujarat High Court has suspended a 10-year sentence awarded by a sessions court to a man from Dhoraji town in Rajkot district for allegedly slaughtering a cow. The high court ordered the immediate release of Salim Makrani, and observed that he is not alleged to have indulged in economic activity of animal slaughter, and therefore the court used “judicial discretion” to suspend his sentence.
“Having heard learned advocates for the respective parties, on overall consideration of material on record as well as the fact that the applicant is not alleged to have indulged into economical activity of animal slaughter, and is only alleged to have used the beef while preparing biryani for celebrating the marriage ceremony of his own daughter, this Court is of the opinion to exercise the judicial discretion to suspend the sentence, and accordingly suspends the sentence imposed upon the applicant,” the single judge bench of Justice R P Dholaria noted in its order issued on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Makrani’s lawyer Samir Khan said the case of the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. “The bench appreciated that there was no prima facie case against the applicant as FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) analysis could not establish beef in the biryani. The case of the prosecution was built on circumstances and the trial court could have given benefit of doubt to the accused,” he said. “The high court also appreciated that the applicant is not in the business of animal slaughter and therefore granted our plea for suspending the sentence.”
The high court ordered the immediate release of Makrani, and asked him to execute a personal bail bond of Rs 10,000 and one surety of like amount for his release from jail, while he pursues his appeal against the sessions court judgment. The court also directed the applicant to surrender his passport, if any, to the trial court.
Police had booked Makrani for cow slaughter and theft after his neighbour Satar Koliya filed a complaint on January 29. The complaint said that Makrani, a casual labourer, stole Koliya’s two-year-old calf, slaughtered it and prepared akni (a biryani-like preparation) to serve guests on his daughter’s wedding. The Dhoraji court pronounced 42-year-old Makrani guilty of theft and cow slaughter on July 6 and sentenced him to 10-year imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him.
This was the first reported conviction in the state under the amended Gujarat Animal Preservation Act. The amendment was brought in 2017.
Makrani moved the high court last month. During trial, the defence argued that the FSL, Rajkot, which analysed the meat, could not conclusively establish it was beef. However, the trial court had ruled that it did not undermine the prosecution’s case that the calf had been slaughtered, and that the suspicion was on Makrani.