Govt pleader for appeal against decriminalising beef possession

Mumbai: The office of the Maharashtra Government Pleader has recommended to the state Government to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order which struck down provisions of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act which criminalised mere possession of the beef.

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The High Court, on May 6, struck down section 5(d) and 9 (b) of the Act which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef. Government Pleader Abhinandan Vagyani told PTI that he was of the view that the High Court correctly upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks (in addition to that on cow slaughter) imposed by Maharashtra Government.

However, the part of the order striking down the provisions criminalising possession of beef was not justified and should be challenged. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said the Government would seek a legal opinion from Government Pleader on filing an appeal. Vagyani said in neighbouring Gujarat there is a complete ban on slaughter of bulls and cows and transportation and possession of beef.

He also cited the example of ban on tobacco and liquor in Gujarat, where their production, transportation and possession is banned. The same applies to beef, he said. The pleader's recommendation was sent to the Government a few days ago and the state would now take a final call, HC sources told PTI.

Vagyani confirmed that he had given his opinion that appeal can be filed against the part of the order which decriminalises the possession of beef. "Section 5(c) of the Act which criminalised mere possession of beef has been read down to conscious possession of the beef. If a person from whom beef has been found did not have prior knowledge of the meat, then he can't be prosecuted.

Only conscious possession can be held as an offence," the HC order says. Section 5(d) of the Act, which criminalises possession of beef, infringes upon a person's Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and hence is liable to be struck down. Similarly, section 9(b) which imposes penal action for possession also has to be struck down, HC said.

Under the Act of 1976, there was ban on cow slaughter and possession and consumption of its meat. In 2015, after BJP-led Government came to power, the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks was also included in the Act.

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