New Delhi, July 1 The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear cases related to the beef ban in Maharashtra, even as one of the judges of the apex court recused herself from the matter.
Justice Indu Malhotra recused herself, stating that she had represented a party earlier as a lawyer. Justice Abhay Sapre, heading the bench, ruled that the three petitions will be listed before an “appropriate” bench by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Petitions and cross-petitions have been filed in the top court, challenging various issues – the ban on cow slaughter, the Bombay High Court order allowing possession and consumption of beef brought into Maharashtra from outside, and the petition by Maharashtra government seeking revival of the legal provision criminalising carrying or keeping beef at home in the state.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising represents one of the intervenors in the matter, in which 33 petitions have been filed.
Individuals from Maharashtra, led by social activist Swatija Paranjpe, have demanded lifting the ban on beef and also “decriminalisation of food habits”, or that people who consume beef should not be charged with an offence.
The court said that the appropriate bench will also decide on Jaising’s plea for referring the entire matter to a Constitution bench.
In May 2016, the high court had observed that the provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, criminalising possession of beef, is directly an infringement on the right to privacy of citizens and referred it unconstitutional.
The court, while upholding the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra, struck down the criminality associated with the transportation and possession of beef. It had observed that the state cannot impose itself on the activities carried by citizens within the house, provided that they are not doing something contrary to the law.
The court had also modified section of the act, making possession of beef from an animal slaughtered in the state an offence, attaching the clause of “conscious possession” of meat as an offence.
In August 2016, the apex court sought response of the Maharashtra government on the plea of the Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh against the high court order. Later, as many as 33 petitions were filed in the apex court by different individuals and organisations.