It’s official—possession and sale of beef in Maharashtra will now be a punishable offence after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to a long-pending bill which sought to ban cow slaughter in he state. 

The amended Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995 groups bulls, bullocks and calves under schedule 5 of the Act, which effectively translates to a blanket ban on their slaughter. The exceptions to the Act remain water buffaloes, which can be slaughtered.

The last Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Shiv Sena government which was in power between 1995 and 1999 passed the bill banning cow slaughter in the state, immediately after it assumed the power. However, the President returned the bill citing technical lacunae and asked the state government to explain them.

The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government, which ruled the state between 1999 and 2014, never replied and the bill remained in limbo.

Within weeks after the Devendra Fadnavis-led government assumed office, it replied to the queries raised by the President, following which Mukherjee signed the bill, turning it into law.

Before the latest amendment to the Act, Maharashtra prohibited the slaughter of cows under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976. However, schedule 6 of the 1976 Act, allowed the slaughter of bulls, bullocks, female buffaloes and buffalo calves on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter" certificate, “if it is not likely to become economical for draught, breeding or milk (in the case of she-buffaloes) purposes."

Additionally, the Act also upgraded the punishment for slaughtering animals covered by the ban. Under the existing law, cattle slaughter is considered a bailable offence. The amended law classifies it as a non-bailable offence, with a punishment of five years, which has been increased from six months as per the 1976 Act. The fine for committing the offence has also seen a hike. Any violation of the new Act would result in a 10,000 fine, as against the 1,000 earlier.

While a majority of Indian states have legislations in place that regulate or prohibit cow slaughter completely, cattle slaughter is considered legal in Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

However, there are legislations in several of these states, which allow for the slaughter of cattle. These include a “fit-for-slaughter" certificate, if the cattle is over a certain age (14 years in Assam, 15 in Bihar for example) or “or has become permanently incapacitated for work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease". Cow slaughter is also legally permitted in Daman and Diu, “only if the animal is suffering pain or contagious disease or for medical research."