Bombay HC decriminalises possession of beef

Bombay HC decriminalises possession of beef

In a significant verdict, the Bombay High Court on Friday upheld the Maharashtra government's ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks.

However, the court decriminalised possession of beef from cattle slaughtered in other states.

Relaxing the law, a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S C Gupte, said: "....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..."

The slaughter of cows was already prohibited in the state under Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976, but bulls and bullocks were allowed only after fit-for-slaughter certificate.  The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, which bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, along with the earlier ban on slaughter of cows, came into force from February 2015 after President Pranab Mukherjee gave assent. Now only slaughter of water-buffaloes is allowed after strict compliance.

When the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance came to power, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, besides his senior Cabinet colleagues — Revenue and Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse and Finance and Planning Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar — followed up and ensured that the bill gets assent. However, there were a series of protests after the ban and the matter also reached the Bombay High Court.

The bench struck down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of MAPA, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef of animals, slaughtered in the state or outside, saying it infringes upon a person's right to privacy. "Section 5(c) of the act which criminalised mere possession of beef has been read down to conscious possession of the beef," the bench observed.

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