MUMBAI: Two Mumbaikars have challenged the expanded beef ban in the Bombay high court and sought protection of their right to quality of life ingrained in their choice of source of nutrition and as a “cultural minority” among Hindus who have beef.

Claiming to be the first consumers of beef to challenge the ban, advocate Vishal Seth from Fort and student Shaina Sen from Bandra said, “We are Hindus who are consumers of beef, which is one of the nutrition sources and part of our diet…Hindu consumers of beef constitute a cultural minority and are entitled to preserve their dietary and cultural identity.”

A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade will take up this PIL along with another filed by a Jogeshwari resident who pointed out that while possession of leather made from bovine hide is not criminal, the possession of its flesh has been criminalized.

The Hindu duo’s PIL said the ban on beef and criminalizing its sale and possession violated fundamental rights — the right to quality of life under Article 21 and Article 29 that bars discrimination against minorities by race, language, religion or culture.

“Beef in India is by far the cheapest of all meats sold and the cheapest source of protein for people who get their nutrition from animal protein source,” Seth and Sen said. Beef was their nutrition source of choice and the ban would affect their quality of life, they added.

They also questioned the Maharashtra government‘s powers to ban the slaughter of bulls and bullock, criminalize the sale or possession of beef and contested the claim that the Constitution of India allows for such a ban. The PIL referred to Parliament debates on the issue and pointed out that the provision for ban on slaughter of bulls, bullock and young livestock was expressly excluded from the Constitution.

The PIL further contended that the ban on slaughter affects farmers who have lost 50% value of their cattle, butchers and beef-sellers, besides consumers of beef. “Criminalizing possession or consumption of beef that is legally slaughtered is illegal,” the PIL has said.

Jogeshwari resident Arif Kapadia’s PIL also argued that consumption of beef cannot be made illegal as it is a source of diet and nutrition to a large number of people. He sought that import of beef be allowed.

The HC will take up a PIL filed by the Bhartiya Gauvansh Rakshan Sanvardhan Parishad seeking implementation of the new law and the intervention application filed by the beef dealers association on March 23. The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act that was sanctioned by the President in February and notified earlier this month by the state government bans the slaughter of bulls and bullock, along with the earlier ban on slaughter of cows. Anyone found selling beef or in possession can be jailed for up to five years and fined Rs 10,000