Bombay HC division bench upholds ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks, but decriminalises possession or consumption of bull or bullock meat brought from outside the state of Maharashtra.
February of last year saw an amendment added to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1976 that originally criminalised the slaughter of cows. The amendment further banned the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, as well as consumption and possession of beef within the state, which was punishable by a five-year jail sentence and a 10,000 rupee fine (for slaughter) and a one-year sentence and 1,000 rupee fine (for possession).
Following the enactment of this amended law, a number of petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the ban and the practicality of it in cities such as Mumbai which are multi-cultural hubs. A division bench consisting of Justices AS Oka and SC Gupta heard arguments at the Bombay High Court, and have settled on a ruling.
Yesterday, May 6, the court struck down a part of this law while upholding the rest of it. The original 1976 Act was upheld as well as the ban on bulls and bullocks slaughtering, which was introduced by the BJP-led government in February 2015. However, sections 5D and 9B of the Act was removed, which now allows possession or consumption of beef from outside the state of Maharashtra. It also shifts the onus on the State and not the accused to prove that the beef in possession is not in violation of the ban.
The court stated, “Section 5(c) of the Act which criminalised mere possession of beef has been read down to conscious possession of the beef. If a person from whom beef has been found did not have prior knowledge of the meat, then he cannot be prosecuted. Only conscious possession can be held as an offence.”