The court examined the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995 under challenge. This law had been amended to include Section 5 D that banned people from possessing meat of cow, bulls and bullocks, slaughtered within or outside the state. Here is what Friday’s judgment means.
Can you import beef from other states and eat it? Can Mumbai or Pune restaurants offer steak if the meat is of cows slaughtered outside the state? Will it be possible to buy beef in Maharashtra markets?
Yes, as the court has struck down the provision of law dealing with procurement from outside Maharashtra. The court has struck it down after finding it unconstitutional and in violation of the Right to Life. The court has said when a person procures beef from a place where it is legal to consume and possess beef, the law cannot prohibit him from eating it here. When it comes to people’s food habits, the court did not mince words. It said people needed to be given their privacy and choice, especially when their choice of food is not injurious to health. “A citizen has a right to lead a meaningful life within the four corners of his house as well as outside his house. The state cannot prevent a citizen from possessing and consuming a particular type of food which is not injurious to health (or obnoxious),” the judgment says. “Preventing a citizen from possessing flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the state amounts to prohibiting a citizen from possessing and consuming food of his choice,” the court ruled.
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Can farmers sell aged cows to abattoirs outside the state?
Though the court commented on the absurdity of disallowing this, it has not struck it down. There is a provision in the beef ban law restricting people from transporting bovine animals outside the state with the knowledge that it will be slaughtered. The court reasons that if anyone transports a cow, bull or bullock to a place outside Maharashtra and slaughters it there, the act of slaughter cannot be in violation of the beef ban law as the law itself “cannot and does not” declare the slaughter made outside the state as illegal. However, it upheld this provision’s validity saying it had a direct link with the government’s idea of prohibition within the state. Therefore, the ban on transporting cows, bulls and bullocks for the purpose of slaughter will remain.
How will police know where beef a citizen is consuming came from?
It will be tough for police to verify and check if meat seized by them is of an animal slaughtered in Maharashtra or outside especially now that the onus is on the police to prove the guilt of someone found in possession of beef. “There will have to be a mechanism of close monitoring. In any crime that takes place, it is traced to where it started. Parties that import and export will have to be monitored,” says former Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney, who argued for the state in the case. When a citizen buys beef in Mumbai from a dealer who procured it from, say, Goa or Kerala, it will be legitimate as long as the buyer has proof it is from outside state limits.
What precautions are to be taken by those consuming beef bought outside the state?
The judgment clearly allows import of beef from outside. The consumers and sellers of beef may have to obtain proof to show that the meat is procured from outside. The responsibility will now be of the police to check if, first, the meat found on a person is beef, and secondly, if he had the knowledge that animal was slaughtered within the jurisdiction of Maharashtra. People possessing beef from outside will also be required to have invoice which shows that import.
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