Beef ban law will fuel `vigilantism’
The draconian provisions of Maharashtra‘s beef ban law intrudes on personal liberty and targets the common citizen, said a senior lawyer arguing against the 2015 legislation before the Bombay high court.“The law that claims to be enacted for the preservation of cow, bulls and bullocks is actually a beef prohibition law,“ said senior advocate, Aspi Chinoy , urging the court to strike down provisions that make possession and in turn consumption of beef a criminal offence as it violates fundamental rights.

“It is an invitation to invade kitchens, restaurants and houses and encourage acts of vigilantism. By intimidation and legislative threats of incarceration, the law actually targets the whole citizen populace that consumes beef,“ the advocate said.

Under the new law, in addition to cows, the sale of bulls and bullocks for slaughter has been made a crime, punishable with a jail term of up to five years and a fine of Rs10,000. The possession of meat of a cow, bull or bullock is also an offence which can be punished with one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs2,000.

Chinoy pointed out that in addition to search and seizure powers, what makes the law oppressive is the fact that it presumes an accused is guilty till he can prove he is innocent in the trial. “A citizen in possession of buffalo meat can be hauled up and incarcerated merely on the suspicion that the flesh is that of a cow, bull or bullock. He will have to prove at the trial later his innocence. This is an oppressive and tyrannical regime against citizens,“ said the advocate.

The senior counsel contended that the law banning cow slaughter had existed in Maharashtra without controversy as it did not have provisions that made possession a criminal offence. “Go after those who slaughter, don’t go after citizens who innocuously consume beef,“ the lawyer said, adding that the state had not made out a case for “intruding into a citizen’s personal liberty , when the act of possession of consumption of bovine flesh is not harmful (unlike in the case of narcotics or ivory). There is no public interest involved.“

Advocate J P Sen, who represented one of the petitioners, said the only reason the state has given for bringing in the law was for “dung and urine“. A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and S C Gupte is hearing petitions challenging the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which was enacted earlier this year.

The hearing will continue on Thursday .