Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday posted on 16 November for final hearing a batch of petitions challenging the beef ban law in Maharashtra. A division bench of Justices A.S. Oka and V.L. Achiliya, before whom the petitions came up for hearing on Wednesday, was informed by acting advocate general Anil Singh that the Maharashtra cabinet has recommended appointment of senior counsel Shreehari Aney as the advocate general and hence he would not appear in the matter any more.
Aney told the court that the notification appointing him has not yet come. “Once the notification comes I would require some time to prepare for arguing the case. But the petitioners’ counsel can start their arguments," he said. Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted that the petitions can be heard next week. The court then adjourned hearing till 16 November. In February 2015, the President had given assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While the Act had banned slaughter of cows way back in 1976, the recent amendments prohibited slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
According to the amended Act, the sale of bulls and bullocks in the state for slaughter is an offence punishable with five-year jail term and ₹ 10,000 fine. Besides, possession of meat of a cow, bull or bullock is also an offence for which the punishment prescribed is one year jail and ₹ 2,000 fine. While hearing the petition, the high court had in April refused to grant an interim stay on the law on the issue of possession of beef. City resident Arif Kapadia and lawyer Harish Jagtiani have challenged the provision of law which says mere possession of beef in any place in the state is a crime.
According to Jagtiani, this provision of law is arbitrary and hits upon the cosmopolitan nature of the city which houses people from all religions and communities. Kapadia described as “draconian" section 5(D) of the Act which makes possession of meat of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the state an offence. Other petitions have been filed by lawyer Vishal Sheth and student Shaina Sen. They said, “We are Hindus who are consumers of beef, which is now part of our diet and nutrition source. The ban on beef and criminalizing its sale and possession violates fundamental rights of citizens."