More than 20 petitions pertaining to the beef ban had been filed in the Bombay High Court and clubbed together, including intervention applications being heard by benches in the state.
One petition was filed by a multi-religious, Hindu-Muslim-Christian coalition of 30 Mumbaiites, who challenged the ban claiming that the Maharashtra government’s aim was to impose its version of “Hindu law”.
The petitioners included filmmakers, women’s rights activists, professors, medical practitioners and students. Their petition mainly opposed Section 5D of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, criminalising possession of beef.
One of the petitioners, Sandhya Gokhle, said: “I am a beef eater and feel that the government has no right to tell us what we should or should not eat or possess. If they want to protect cattle wealth, how do they expect the farmers who are facing drought to provide water to the animals?”
According to Gokhle, a Dadar resident who is a computer professional, she and 29 like-minded people met through an Internet group and decided to file the petition.
Co-petitioner Chayanika Shah said the ban takes away the right, especially from the poor, to eat good, nutritious food.
Another petition was by farmers in Aurangabad who claimed the state had not considered their plight before enacting the ban. These petitioners said many of them were not in a position to maintain bullocks that had outlived their utility for agricultural purposes, and that the market for sale of such cattle had collapsed. They urged the HC to strike down the law, or order the state to purchase cattle at market prices.
Jogeshwari resident Arif Kapadia and senior lawyer Haresh Jagtani were prime movers of another petition that challenged the provision criminalising possession of beef. Jagtani claimed that the rule affects the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai. Kapadia’s petition said the provision in Section 5(D) that makes possession of meat or flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra illegal was “draconian”.
Other petitions include those filed by residents, including one by Fort-based lawyer Vishal Sheth, Bandra-based student Shaina Sen and others. Some of these petitions sought protection of their right to quality of life ingrained in people’s choice of source of nutrition, and also protection of a “cultural minority” among Hindus who consume beef.
The government, in an affidavit submitted earlier, said eating habits of a group does not make it a “cultural minority” entitled to protection under Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities) of the Constitution. The then Advocate General Shrihari Aney had also sought to draw a distinction between “culture” and “tradition” when he told the court that not allowing slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks by Muslims during a religious event cannot be considered a violation of their culture.