While upholding Maharashtra government’s decision to ban slaughter of bullocks in the state, the Bombay High Court has given some relief to beef eaters in the state.

The HC struck down section in Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalises possession of beef brought from outside Maharashtra. According to the HC order, a person can have beef in Maharashtra, provided it has been purchased from a neighbouring state, where it is not banned.

The court further added that if somebody is found in possession of beef in the state, the prosecution will have to first prove that it was ‘conscious’ possession, and only then can he be prosecuted.

It may be recalled that, in February 2015, the President granted assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While the original 1976 Act banned slaughter of cows, the amendment prohibited, in addition, slaughter of bulls and bullocks and possession and consumption of their meat.

As per the Act, slaughter attracts a five-year jail-term and Rs 10,000 fine while possession of meat of bull or bullock attracts one-year in jail and Rs 2,000 fine. During the hearing, the HC had refused to grant interim stay to the provisions penalising the possession of beef.

Arif Kapadia, a city resident, and noted lawyer Harish Jagtiani challenged the provision which says mere possession of beef anywhere in the state is a crime. This is arbitrary and undermines the cosmopolitan nature of the city which houses people from all religions and communities, they contend.

Other petitions have been filed by Vishal Sheth, a lawyer, and Shaina Sen, a student, contending that the ban on beef violates fundamental rights of citizens.