The Bombay High Court on Friday struck down three sections of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act which was enforced in March 2015, thereby holding that criminal prosecution for possessing beef is unconstitutional under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.While striking down sections, 5 (d) and section 9(b) of the Act and reading down section 5 (c), the court said it was in contravention of provisions of the right to privacy. The court has allowed the state to prosecute only after ascertaining whether the person having beef was in conscious possession of it. Technically, this means people cannot bring beef from outside Maharashtra, but if brought, authorities will have to ascertain whether it was consciously brought and prosecution will follow thereafter. Also, the slaughter of bulls/bullocks will not continue in the state. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per the law, possession of beef was criminalised, thereby indirectly banning sale or possession of beef in any form in the state.The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act was enacted in March 2015 and bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, in addition to an earlier ban on the slaughter of cows. The law makes the sale of bulls, bullocks for slaughter a crime, punishable with a jail term of up to five years and a fine of Rs 10,000.Section 5(d) of the Act says that possession of meat of a cow, bull or bullock, even if slaughtered outside the state, is also an offence which can be punished with one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2,000. Petitions have challenged this section claiming that the ban on beef is a violation of the fundamental right to life and liberty. However, former Advocate general of the State Shrihari Aney had justified the ban, contending that there was no fundamental right to choice of food and or any right to eat beef. The state also claimed that making possession of beef a crime was necessary in order to ensure effective implementation of the ban.The aim and object of the Act is to preserve cattle for their undeniable utility in agriculture and drought sectors.The government affidavit said that the eating habits of a group of persons do not make that group a “cultural minority” entitled to protection under Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities). The concept of culture is far above issues like what one eats, it said. If a food habit, that too not essential food, is considered to be part of culture, then there would be thousands of minority groups in the country on this basis alone, it said. Further, it had said, “India is a vast country and people living in different parts of the country have different food cuisines…Therefore, eating a particular food does not entitle the constitution of a cultural minority.The state government had also clarified that it does not have any intention to impose a “vegetarian regime or dictate or force food habits”. “The non-vegetarians are free to have their own food choices but cannot insist, as a matter of right, on a particular type of food.The petitioners relying on Article 19 (1)(g) which deals with the fundamental right to “practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business,” the state government has said that this right is subject to Article 19 (6) which permits reasonable restrictions to be imposed in the interest of the general public.

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Beef ban: Bombay High Court strikes down criminal prosecution for possessing beef in Maharashtra