Maharashtra justifies beef ban in HC, says it has powers to do it

Maharashtra government on Wednesday justified in the Bombay High Court its decision to impose the ban on beef contending that the state was empowered to take such a step under the directive principles of the Constitution.

The Advocate General Srihari Aney argued that 'right to eat a particular kind of food' is not part of 'right to privacy' enshrined under article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees right to life.

There is no fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution to have a choice of food, Aney said and added that the state was empowered to impose the ban on beef. The division bench of Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte is hearing a clutch of public interest litigations challenging Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act.

While the original Act of 1976 bans slaughter of cows, the recent amendment prohibits slaughter of bulls and bullocks too, making it an offence punishable with five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine. Mere possession and consumption of bovine meat too can attract one year in jail and Rs 2,000 fine.

The petitioners argued that there has to be compelling public interest to justify the ban on beef. However, the state contended that it did not need to have compelling public interest to defend its decision on banning beef. "It is part of fundamental duty of the state under the
Constitution to take such a step (of imposing ban on beef)," said Aney.

The Advocate General also supported the arguments of Advocate Anil Anturkar on behalf of an intervenor that 'right to food' is a part and parcel of Article 21 but not the right to 'choice of food'.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, had argued last time that by criminalising even possession and consumption of beef the state government had violated the fundamental rights of the citizens.

He had said that the right to choice of food fell under Article 21 of the Constitution. The hearing would continue on December 17.

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