Petition to challenge the validity of Act that prohibits slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in the Maharashtra
Indian Union Muslim League v. The State of Maharashtra Ors. (WRIT PETITION NO. 9209 OF 2015)
The Petition sought to challenge the validity of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act that prohibited slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in the State. Vide the said amendment, a ban was imposed on possessing the flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered within and outside the State of Maharashtra.
The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act was assented by the President of India on 02 March 2015 and notified on 04 March 2015, almost 20 years after it was passed.
Several Sections of this Act were challenged by the said Petition for being illegal, arbitrary and violative of the fundamental rights-
Section 5A prohibits any person from transporting or offer to transport any cow, bull or bullock from any place within the State to any place outside the State for the purpose of its slaughter in contravention of the provisions of this Act
Section 5B prohibits any person from purchasing, selling or otherwise disposing of any cow, bull or bullock for slaughter in contravention of the Act.
Section 5C prohibits any person from having in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered in contravention of the provisions of this Act.
Section 5D states that no person shall have in his possession flesh of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the State of Maharashtra.
- That this Hon’ble Court be pleased to declare that the Amending Act of 1995 is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
- To issue a writ of prohibition or order prohibiting the Respondents from taking any action under the Amending Act of 1995;
- That pending hearing and final disposal of this Petition, the Muslim community be permitted to carry out sacrifice of bulls and bullocks as provided in the Principal Act of 1976;
- That pending hearing and final disposal of this Petition, this Hon’ble Court be pleased to issue directions, directing the Respondents to allow the slaughter of aged bulls and bullocks for the festival of Eid-ul- Adha.
Judgement Delivered. An Appeal against this judgment to the Supreme Court has been filed by the State of Maharashtra and is still pending.
The said Amendment Act was challenged on the following grounds:
- The President of India assented the Act almost 20 years after it was passed. This was done without examining the economic realities existing as on 2015.
- The blanket prohibition is in excess of and totally unrelated to the objects and reasons sought to be achieved by the said Amendment Act and violates Article 21, 14 and 29 of the Constitution.
- The total prohibition is in violation of the Fundamental Rights of the Petitioner’s and other persons similarly situated under Article 21 as it infringes their personal liberty.
- The Amendment Act also runs contrary to the Fundamental Rights to the unique cultural identity of the minorities conferred by Article and greatly erodes the cultural identity of the minority community.
- That the total ban on animal sacrifice which forms an integral part of Islam offends the religion of the Muslims as the poor will now not be able to carry out sacrifice since the prices of Goats are so high that they are unable to purchase Goats for sacrificing them.
- The total prohibition of slaughter is arbitrary, ultra vires of the Constitution and of an excessive nature, which goes beyond the requirements of the interests of the general public.
- That while amending the Act no justification of any nature is provided in respect of the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
- The Objects and Reasons for the Amendment Act was that since the economy of the State is still predominantly agricultural, cow and her progeny play a crucial role in sustaining the same and the dung of the animals provide environmentally friendly manure and biogas. However the prohibitions were unrelated to the Objects.
- Section 5 which prohibits slaughter of cow by the Muslim community on the occasion of BakrId thus violates Article 25 of the Constitution. A large number of Muslim population who cannot afford to sacrifice one goat can according to their religion instead can sacrifice one cow amongst seven persons. But it is established that the sacrifice is not an integral part of the religion, the same is not protected by Article 25.
- The allegation that Section 5 is violative of Article 29 to conserve their culture falls due to the failure to establish that the slaughter of cows, bulls or bullocks is a part of the essential culture of any religion or community. A violation of Cultural right does not mean a violation of right to religion.
- The contention that the prohibition imposed by the Sections 5A, 5B and 5C has a direct and immediate effect on the trade, commerce and intercourse of flesh of cows, bulls or bullocks among states falls. Articles 301 provides freedom of trade between States however this freedom can be restricted as it is for the Public interest.
- Under Section 5C possession of flesh of cows, bulls or bullocks slaughtered in contravention of the provisions of this Act is made an offence. This is in violation of fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the owners of the cold storages who store the same. The Possession is not treated as a “conscious possession” but as mere custody, there is every possibility of an innocent person being convicted for an offence.
- Section 9B introduced by the imposes a negative burden in a trial for offences on the accused of proving that the slaughter, transport, export outside the State, purchase, sale or possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock was not in contravention of the provisions of this Act. It is therefore unconstitutional.
- Section 5D is struck down as violates right to privacy as part of personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21. This right includes the right to eat food of one’s choice and right to nutrition. Beef is the cheapest animal protein available to the poor and thus their staple food.
- The Amendment Act was assented by the President of India on 02 March 2015 and notified on 04 March 2015, almost 20 years after it was passed. After a year, on 6th May 2016 the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay issued the final judgment and lifted the ban as it was declared illegal, arbitrary and violated of the fundamental rights.