Right to Privacy judgment will affect Maharashtra beef ban, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has said that the Right to Privacy judgment will have "some bearing" in matters related to possession of beef in Maharashtra.

The apex court made the observation while hearing a batch of appeals filed against the Bombay High Court's 6 May, 2016 verdict decriminalising the possession of beef in case of animals slaughtered outside the state.

A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was informed by an advocate that Thursday's judgement from a nine-judge Constitution bench, declaring right to privacy a fundamental right, was important for adjudication of the appeal.

"Yes, that judgement will have some bearing in these matters," the bench said.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court declared the Right To Privacy as a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. A nine-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ruled that right to privacy is protected intrinsically as part of rights guaranteed under Article 21 and Part III of the Constitution.

In the judgment, Justice Chelameswar had written, "I do not think that anybody would like to be told by the State as to what they should eat or how they should dress or whom they should be associated with either in their personal, social or political life."

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for some of the petitioners, referred to the privacy judgement and said the right to eat food of one's choice is now protected under privacy. She also told the bench that Maharashtra government's appeal challenging the high court verdict was already pending before another bench of the apex court.

File image of the Supreme Court. AP

File image of the Supreme Court. AP

The bench, after hearing the submissions, posted the matter after two weeks.

The Maharashtra government had on 10 August moved the apex court challenging the high court's verdict striking down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995, which criminalised and imposed punishment on persons found in possession of beef of animals, slaughtered in or outside the state, on the ground that it infringed upon a person's "right to privacy".

The court had issued notice on the appeal and tagged the matter along with several pending pleas related to the issue. The high court had termed "unconstitutional" the provisions which held that mere possession of beef was a crime, saying only "conscious possession" of the meat of animals slaughtered in the state would be an offence.

The plea assailed the judgement, saying the restriction imposed by the 1995 Act on possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock could not be interpreted and concluded to be an infringement of "right to privacy". The state government had said the high court "while coming to the finding that right to privacy forms part of the fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, ought to have appreciated that right to privacy was not yet designated as a fundamental right".

The plea had said that according to the verdict, obligation upon the state to prove "conscious possession" of beef would "constitute an insurmountable circumstance readily available to the  wrongdoer to escape sentence".

In its judgement, the high court had upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks imposed by the Maharashtra government, but decriminalised possession of beef in case the animals were slaughtered outside the state. The judgement had come on a batch of petitions filed in the high court challenging the constitutional validity of the Act and, in particular, the possession and consumption of beef of animals slaughtered outside Maharashtra.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Aug 25, 2017 14:29 PM

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