AMID a string of lynchings linked to the trade and transport of cattle in various parts of the country, the Maharashtra Police have directed their officers to ensure that “cow vigilantes” do not take the law into their hands and harass meat traders or transporters. While a circular in this regard has been sent statewide from the office of the Maharashtra DGP, Mumbai Police recently issued an advisory to their 94 stations asking officers to ensure that the beef ban legislation is not “misused”.
In 2015, the state government amended provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2015, to make the sale and transport of beef illegal. Under the new law, anyone found selling or possessing beef can be jailed for up to five years, apart from being fined.
“Generally, information pertaining to the ferrying of beef is shared by so-called cow vigilantes or gau rakshaks. These people expect that as soon as the information is shared, police would act and register a case under the beef ban legislation. Since it’s a topic that could flare into a communal situation, we have asked police units to deal with these cases sensitively,” said a Home Department official.
“Police should lodge a complaint under provisions of the local civic body law first, which allows for the prosecution of people who ferry any kind of illegal meat. Under the BMC Act, the meat has to be sent for testing first. We have asked units to invoke stringent sections of the newly amended legislation only when the forensic science lab confirms that the meat seized is beef,” said the official.
The circular issued by the DGP’s office directs policemen to ensure that “gau rakshaks” do not carry out any “suo motu raids”. It states that if anyone has any information on beef being ferried or bovines being butchered, it should first be conveyed to the local police station for the duty officer to conduct raids, if needed.
“Policemen have been informed that if there is information on beef being transported in public vehicles, the raids shouldn’t cause inconvenience to fellow passengers,” said the official.
Mumbai Police’s advisory, on similar lines, states that upon receiving any complaint of beef being ferried inside city limits, a case should be registered under the new law only after the samples are tested at the forensic science lab.