Mumbai/Nagpur: The Bombay High Court’s order to de-criminalise possession and consumption of beef in Maharashtra while continuing the ban on slaughter in the state has evoked mixed reactions. The court has partially struck the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act exempting possession and consumption of beef from outside. However, the court has upheld the constitutional validity sections of the Act which ban slaughter in the state.
The court further said mere possession will be read down as conscious possession.This essentially means that unless someone is consciously bringing in meat into Maharashtra, the burden of proving his innocence is not on the person.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have said today’s order was a big blow to the state government as it had enforced a complete beef ban and made the sale or consumption of the meat punishable by a five-year jail-term and Rs. 10,000 fine.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in his reaction said the state government will file petition against the Bombay high court’s order to decriminalise beef possession after seeking views of the state law and judiciary department.
Fadnavis hastened to mention that the high court has however, upheld upheld the beef ban imposed by the state government after the enactment of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. The Act bans slaughter of bulls, bullocks.
Both Congress and NCP alleged that BJP’s real face stands exposed as the party led government was bent on imposing a particular life style on others and also pursuing the divisive politics.
Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant alleged that BJP’s intention since beginning was not noble but creating divisions among various communities. ”The high court order partially striking down has exposed BJP’s political ploy,” he said.
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik while welcoming the high court order said people habituated to eat bull and bullock beef will continue to do so from now. ”The fundamental right has been restored,” he opined.
Bhimrao Dhonde, the BJP legislator from the drought hit Beed district in parched Marathwada, said the government’s priority should be to support farmers, and they should be allowed to sell their cattle to whomever they want. “It is time to withdraw the ban,” Dhonde stated adding that the government’s ban on sale of unproductive cattle has adversely impacted farmers as they had to bear additional burden.
Dhonde informed that more than 3,50,000 cattle in Marathwada are housed in the camps located in the worst-affected districts of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad. While referring to the state finance minister Sudhir Mungatiwar’s announcement in the annual budget on the establishment of “Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendra” in 34 rural districts for rearing of non-lactating and unproductive cattle breed with participation of NGOs, he said so far not a single such centre has been formed and there has been no transfer of non lactating and unproductive cattle there. The one-time grant of one crore as announced has yet to reach to districts.
Interestingly, BJP’s ally the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) reiterated its opposition to the state law saying that it has not resulted in the increase in number of cattle population though there has been rise in milk production. State SSS chief Sadabhau Khot observed that the high court’s order allowing eating and keeping of beef from outside Maharashtra will not help the local farmers as the ban on sale of unproductive cattle continues. He claimed that cattle are dying of thirst and hunger. Khot demanded that the government should step up its efforts to save cattle while providing due attention on farmers.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel said, “We are surprised. It seems the court want to say yes and no at the same time. The court has pleased the government and at the same time has given a free hand for public to consume beef which had come from outside the state.However, the real question is how and from where people will get beef for storage and eating. It must be told here that in Parliament it was informed by the government that during 2015-16 about 21 communal riots took place due to transportation of cattle. Actually, this is the real issue which would have been addressed by the court.”
He noted that the present condition of farmers and also of cattle in drought hit districts in the state is really pathetic and the government’s announcement to open cattle camps has been an eye wash.
“We will approach the Supreme Court with a plea to allow the slaughtering of bull and bullock above 16 years of age and sale of their beef in Maharashtra. Today’s High Court order does not permit sale of beef within the state as the Court has allowed transportation of beef from outside the state for its consumption and possession,” said Arif Chowdhury, president, Jamat-ul-Quresh Minority Association, one of the petitioners in the case, said.