Challenge to Beef Ban: Justice Gautam Patel recuses himself from hearing petitions

Challenge to Beef Ban: Justice Gautam Patel recuses himself from hearing petitions

Justice Gautam Patel of Bombay High Court has reportedly recused himself from hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the amendment in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976, which imposes a ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks for their meat in the state.

The matter was listed before a Bench comprising Justice Patel and Justice Abhay S. Oka. Justice Patel however recused himself for the reason that earlier in 2012, when the Karnataka Government had proposed to pass a similar law, he had written an article for Mumbai Mirror titled “The Good, the Bad and the Bovine” when he was an advocate.

In the article, Justice Patel had opined that, “Governments are notoriously lethargic in implementing animal welfare laws, and a law that set stricter standards and better supervision would be reasonable. But to selectively choose one and ignore others - there is no similar act about sheep, goats, fish or fowl - is less about animal rights than right-wingery and reactionary politics. It is a surreptitious destruction of entire communities by undermining their lives. Beef is food to many; not coincidentally, Dalits and Muslim.”

Justice Patel had pointed out a few problems that they be caused by aggressively promoting breeding, which no law or Commission dealt with. “Nobody in his or her right mind could support the factory-farming of cattle or the non-humane way they are killed. But it is preposterous to advocate more cattle breeding but not provide measures to put them down when they are old, infirm, sick and become a burden rather than an asset.

Keeping cattle is expensive, and many of the old hill forts in Maharashtra - Sinhagad is one - have huge populations of abandoned cattle along their highest reached, left out in all seasons and uncared for. And let’s not even get started on the problems of such vast quantities of methane production and climate change. If the hole in the ozone layer reopens over India, we’ll know why,” he had written.

In view of this, Acting Chief Justice V.K. Tahilramani will now constitute a new Bench headed by Justice Oka to hear the petitions.

In February this year, President Pranab Mukherjee had granted sanction to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. The Act banned slaughter of bulls and bullocks, in addition to slaughter of cows. Sale of bulls and bullocks for slaughter in the State is an offence punishable with five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine. Besides, possession of meat of cow or of bull or bullock is also an offence for which the punishment prescribed is one year jail and Rs 2,000 fine.

The challenge to the provision restraining possession of beef in any state was brought by Mr. Arif Kapadia and noted lawyer Harish Jagtiani. Mr. Kapadia had termed the provision “draconian”. Mr. Jagtiani had challenged the provision as being arbitrary, contrary to the cosmopolitan nature of the city which is home for people from various religions and communities. Other petitions were filed by Vishal Sheth, a lawyer, and Shaina Sen, a student. You may read more about the petitions here.

While hearing the petitions in April, a division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice A.R. Joshi had asked for the State Government’s explanation as to why the State only banned the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks and not goats or other animals. In response, the Advocate General (AG) Sunil Manohar, appearing for the Government told the bench that, “This is just the start. We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks”. You may read an account of the hearing here.

You may also read: Animal Welfare v Restricting a consumable food item: Beef Ban