The first of its kind petition on the issue points out to one’s right to choose his food, supply of essential proteins and denial of access to cheap and nutritious food to lower socio-economic strata of society- predominantly SC/ST and Muslim communities.
Thirty Maharashtra-based social activists have knocked the door of the Supreme Court through senior lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising seeking a lifting of ban on cattle slaughter.
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”.
The Special Leave Petition challenges 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. But if it is allowed, is definitely going to have an impact on all states where cow slaughter or beef eating is banned.
They have also 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 of the activists from Maharashtra led by Swatija Paranjpe, which will be heard on Monday, 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 : 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
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
Meanwhile the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Maharashtra Government and Centre on 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.
Read the Petition here.