news Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 05:30
After the Maharashtra government on March 2 acquired Presidential assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, it has now defended the state-wide beef ban by telling the High Court that eating beef was not a fundamental right.   The state government’s decision to ban possession and consumption of beef in addition to banning slaughter in the state has resulted in several petitions being filed in court. Petitioners have questioned Section 5D of the Act which specifically disallows possession of cow, bull or bullock meat saying that it does not have any relation with the Animal Preservation Act. Buffalo meat, which is used to make carabeef, is an inferior variety of the meat which is generally exported and has been exempt from the ban imposed by the legislation.   The state government’s counsel further mentioned in court that the Section was in place to ensure “perfect” implementation of the Act and that the ban could not be seen as a violation of fundamental rights concerning life and liberty.   We asked three experts on what they thought about the Maharashtra government's stand.   Sanjay Hegde - Supreme Court advocate    “Eating is a fundamental right; it is as simple as that. It’s not a gift by the constitution as there are rights beyond the constitution. The right to life has several penumbral rights and the right to eat the food of your choice is one of them”.   Hegde further argues by saying that the government’s counsel was thinking in terms of prohibition as is with liquor in some states.  The Supreme Court has categorized alcohol as res extra commercium. The Latin term is used to imply the argument that there could be no trade of something that was inherently harmful and is useful in imposing complete prohibition in a state. Hegde is of the opinion that a similar route was being taken by the Maharashtra government to defend the ban.   He also says that the apex court has not issued a dictum so far on cow-slaughter.   Karuna Nundy- Supreme Court advocate    Referring to the name of the legislation which literally seeks to preserve animals, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy says that it’s an eye-wash anyway.    “The aim of the act it seems is to deal with cruelty to animals. The fact that it only deals with cows with these excesses (bans on consumption and possession) is in itself a smokescreen”.   Nundy is also of the opinion that criminalization by prohibiting imports is also wrong, citing Articles 14,19 and 21 of the constitution which deal with fundamental rights. Nundy argues that under these three rights, criminalization due to slaughter happening outside the state was wrong as it violated the right to not be criminalized arbitrarily.   Sudha Ramalingam - Advocate with the Madras High Court and activist   “I feel people’s choice to eat is a fundamental right so long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. If I’m eating an endangered species, it would be a crime. Cows and bulls are not. I don’t think its right for the state to impose a ban on eating beef as there may be some other religion which may have a problem with another animal being consumed”.   Ramalingam also mentions that the state can’t look to be pandering to a particular religion by upholding its tenets over another.

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