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SC admits petition on Maharashtra beef ban, issues notice to state govt

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 18 August 2016, 0:10 IST

The Supreme Court of India has admitted a petition challenging the Bombay High Court order to legalise the consumption and possession of beef in Maharashtra.

The Akhil Bharatiya Krishi Gauseva Sangh had filed the petition challenging the High Court verdict in May this year, wherein people's right to choose food was upheld.

The apex court has issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, asking it to reply by next week, when the next hearing on the petition is likely to be held.

The High Court order

The Bombay High Court, while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, had upheld the ban on the slaughter of bovine animals in Maharashtra.

However, the High Court, in its order, had clarified that the people of Maharashtra who want to consume beef can do so if the animals are slaughtered in other states, and the meat is imported to Maharashtra.

The High Court had struck down the provision in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, that banned the possession of beef and also the ban on procurement of beef from outside Maharashtra. Section 5D of the Act prohibited the possession of beef - meat of cows, bulls and oxen, slaughtered within our outside Maharashtra.

The court found the provision to be unconstitutional, and in violation of the right to life. It observed that the law can not prohibit any person from procuring beef from the places where it is legal, and possess it for consumption in Maharashtra.

The President of India had given his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, in February 2015. The original Act, passed in 1976, prohibited the slaughter of cows, while the amendment prohibited the slaughter of cow progeny and even consumption and possession of beef in Maharashtra. There is a provision of a five-year jail term and a Rs 10,000 fine for cow progeny slaughter, and a one-year jail term and a Rs 2,000 fine for the possession of beef.

Losses incurred due to the ban

According to Mohammad Ali Qureshi, president of the Bombay Suburban Beef Merchants Association, the ban has caused financial losses to the tune of Rs 15 billion per year to those associated with beef trade. These include restaurants selling beef dishes, leather traders and millions of people from the Qureshi community, who solely depend on slaughter for their daily bread and butter.

Qureshi said the Deonar Slaughter House in Mumbai used to supply animal skin to leather shoe industries in Kolkata and Chennai. The slaughterhouse used to supply 450 skins every day, each costing Rs 1,500.

"The ban has hit the annual skin business to the tune or Rs 24 crore at Deonar Slaughter House. Apart from this, the daily business of beef, worth Rs 30 lakh, has also been affected. While 450 animals were officially slaughtered at Deonar, a similar number of animals, illegally slaughtered across the state, would come into Mumbai every day. In all, the annual business worth Rs 15 billion has been lost due to the ban," Qureshi said.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 18 August 2016, 0:10 IST