SC notice on petitions challenging beef, cow slaughter ban; hearing after 6 weeks
The Supreme Court today issued notice to Maharashtra government and Centre on a petition against the May 6 order of the Bombay High Court which upheld the ban on cow slaughter in the state under the amended Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2015.
The SLP was filed by 30 Maharashtra-based social activists through senior lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising .But if it is allowed, is definitely going to have an impact on all states where cow slaughter or beef eating is banned. Significantly they have linked the issue to violation of “one’s right to choose his food”, a violation of right to live (Art 21) of the constitution and “supply of essential proteins”.
A bench of justice A K Sikri and Y Chandrachud also issued notices in four other petitions on the issue filed butchers assiciation, farmers, religious bodies.
All of them have been tagged with a separate petition filed by the Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh which challenged the Bombay High Court order allowing possession and consumption of beef brought into Maharashtra from outside the State. The court had on August 17 issued notice on that petition.
All the pleas have been fixed for hearing after six weeks.
The most important petition was the petition filed by Jaising. She has pointed out that those who consume beef as a part of their regular diet are predominantly from the lower socio-economic strata of society, are predominantly members of SC/ST and Muslim community, and therefore the effect of restriction on access to cheap and nutritious food that is a part of their regular diet is extraordinarily intense and cannot be legally sustained.
The plea also demands “decriminalization of food habits”.
“No person can be compelled to eat what he or she does not wish to eat as an alternative source of food, since the right to eat food of one’s choice is part of the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution (Right to life). Beef is known to contain protein which is necessary for human survival and is an affordable form of food which cannot be denied to those who wish to eat it”, said the petition.
“Food habits are formed over centuries and the right to conserve food cultures is also part of Article 21”, it added.
The petition has challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 5, 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D and 9A and 9B of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2015 Maharashtra had passed the law banning the possession and import of been, apart from slaughter in March last year.
The preliminary question asked in Jaising"s plea Whether the Hon’ble High Court was justified in upholding the validity of Section 5, and consequently Sections 5A and 5B, and 5C, thereby extending the complete ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks without even considering all the submissions, facts and quantitative data submitted by the various petitioners before it?
SOME OF THE ISSUES RAISED
- For that the right to consume food of one’s choice is part of the right to food under Article 21, since food habits are formed over centuries and the right to conserve food cultures is part of Article 21.
- For that no person can be compelled to eat what he or she does not wish to eat as an alternative source of food, since the right to eat food of one’s choice is part of the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21.
- For that food is res extra commercium and only those foods that are injurious to public health can be banned or access denied and no other form of food.
- For that the direct and inevitable impact of prohibiting slaughter of bulls and bullocks is to deny access to beef for the purpose of human consumption, thus denying the right under Article 21.
- For that beef is known to contain protein which is necessary for human survival and is an affordable form of food which cannot be denied to those who wish to eat it.
Bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice S C Gupte of the Bombay High Court had upheld the ban on cattle slaughter in the state but allowed people to consume beef imported from other states, observing that a ban on imported beef would be “an infringement of right of privacy, which is a fundamental right”.
The court had also struck down a rule which provided one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 20,000 for those possessing beef calling it unconstitutional as it violated a person’s right to live.
It is to be noted that the bench had said the objective of the ban was to protect the cow and its progeny, not to prevent citizens from eating beef that may be brought from a state or a country where there is no prohibition on cow slaughter.
The state had unsuccessfully argued that striking down these provisions will make it difficult to implement the beef ban.