Mumbai(DNA): The Bombay High Court on Wednesday upheld Maharashtra government's ban on beef. However, it directed the government not to take any coercive steps for its possession for the next three months.
A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade was of the view that no stay can be given until the final hearing of a bunch of petitions challenging the beef ban which was fixed on June 25.
The court asked the state government to file a detailed affidavit on the issue within four weeks and allowed the petitioners and intervenors to file rejoinders two weeks thereafter.
In another development, the court directed the state not to take any coercive action till pendency of petitions or three months against traders who have been found in possession or transportation of beef.
"This is because the Act had been introduced suddenly and reasonable time was not given to the traders to dispose of their products," said the Judges.
However, FIRs can be registered against such traders but no further action can be taken until the petitions are decided finally or three months whichever is earlier, the court said.
A bunch of petitions had challenged the ban by government on consumption and possession of meat of slaughtered cows, bulls and bullocks.
The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, enforced last month by the state government, bans slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks and also consumption and possession of their meat.
Three petitions were filed challenging sections 5 (d) and 9 (a) of the Act, which prohibit possession and consumption of meat of cow, bulls and bullocks even if the animals have been slaughtered outside Maharashtra.
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According to the petitions, this puts a ban on import of meat. The petitions had sought a stay on these sections. Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for one of the petitioners, had argued that such a ban on consumption was violative of the fundamental right of a person to have his choice of food.
"Five states in India, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, have permitted import of beef despite a ban on slaughter of those animals. And in these states passion go high in such matters but it is still allowed," Chinoy had said.
Advocate General Sunil Manohar had, however, argued that consumption of beef is not a fundamental right of a citizen and the state government can regulate a person's fundamental right to have his choice of food.
"It is not a fundamental right of a citizen to eat beef. It cannot be said that the government cannot take away these rights. The state legislation can regulate consumption of flesh of any animal the source of which is reprehensible.
Under the Animal Protection Act, there is a prohibition on consumption of wild boar, deer and other animals," he argued.