Mumbai, May 6: The Bombay High Court on Friday, May 6 upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks in BJP-ruled Maharashtra while making it clear that mere possession of beef of animals slaughtered outside the state cannot invite criminal action.
The High Court struck down two sections of the state Act which criminalised possession of beef. In a 245-page strongly worded judgement, a division bench of the High Court said the sections that criminalised possession of beef is an infringement on the right to privacy of citizens and unconstituional.
Striking down sections 5(d)and 9(b) of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act which criminalised and imposed punishment for possession of beef of animals slaughtered in the state or outside, Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte held that the state cannot control what a citizen does in his house which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something contrary to law.
"Sections 5(d) which provides that no person shall have in his possession flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra is unconstitutional and infringes upon a citizen's right to privacy," the court said. "Similarly section 9(b) which imposes penal action (on an offender) and puts the onus of proving himself as innocent is also invalid," the court said, after hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Act.
The court also modified section 5(c) of the Act, which makes possession of beef of animal slaughtered in the state an offence, and said only "conscious possession" of such meat will be held as an offence. "As far as the choice of eating food of the citizens is concerned, the citizens are required to be let alone especially when the food of their choice is not injurious to health," the court said.
"The state cannot make an intrusion into his home and prevent a citizen from possessing and eating food of his choice. A citizen has a right to lead a meaningful life within the four corners of his house as well as outside his house. This intrusion on the personal life of an individual is prohibited by the right to privacy which is part of the personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21," the court said.
Reacting to the judgement, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state may approach the Supreme Court, after consulting legal experts, against the striking down of the two provisions of the Act but expressed the satisfaction that the High Court has affirmed the law is constitutional.
"The HC has affirmed that our law is constitutional and it has not targeted any religion, caste or creed. I am happy that our stand is vindicted by the Court," Fadnavis told reporters here. "However, there are two provisions of the law that have been struck down by the High Court.
We will consult our lawyers, and, if necessary, will approach the Supreme Court against this. Other than these two provisions, the court has found no fault with the law," he added. More.