Eating beef not a fundamental right: Maharashtra govt tells HC

Mumbai: It is not a fundamental right of a citizen to eat beef and the state legislation can regulate consumption of flesh of animals, the Maharashtra government today told the Bombay High Court.

Advocate General Sunil Manohar made this submission while opposing a bunch of petitions challenging the ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks, and consumption and possession of their meat, introduced under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. He said that the petitioners' contention that a person can eat anything he wishes to other than human flesh cannot be accepted.

"It is not a fundamental right of a citizen to eat beef.It cannot be said that the government cannot take away these rights. The state legislation can regulate consumption of flesh of any animal the source of which is reprehensible.

Under the Animal Protection Act, there is a prohibition on consumption of wild boar, deer and other animals," Manohar argued. The petitions have challenged only sections 5 (d) and 9 (a) of the Act, which prohibit possession and consumption of meat of cow, bulls and bullocks even if the animals have been slaughtered outside Maharashtra. According to the petitions, this puts a ban on import of meat.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, had argued that such a ban on consumption was violative of the fundamental right of a person to have his choice of food.

The state government in an affidavit filed yesterday, however, refuted this contention. The Advocate General said there are several other food items that provide the same nutrition as that of beef. He further argued that if section 5 (d), which prohibits possession and consumption of beef, is struck down, then the Act would remain only on paper and it would frustrate the purpose and its object which is to protect cow progeny.

A division bench of justices V M Kanade and M S Sonak will continue hearing the arguments tomorrow.

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