Supreme Court fixes final hearing for pleas seeking decriminalisation of beef possession in February
Supreme Court listed for final disposal a batch of pleas challenging the Bombay High Court verdict decriminalising the possession of beef in case of animals slaughtered outside the state
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday listed for final disposal a batch of pleas challenging the Bombay High Court verdict decriminalising the possession of beef in case of animals slaughtered outside the state.
A bench of Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Mohan Sapre listed the matter in the third week of February on the non-miscellaneous day.
The top court had earlier said that the landmark judgement declaring the right to privacy a fundamental right would have "some bearing" in matters relating to the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra.
The Bombay High Court had on 6 May last year struck down sections 5(D) and 9(B) of the Maharashtra Animals Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995.
While section 5(D) criminalises possession of meat of cows, bulls or bullocks, slaughtered outside Maharashtra, section 9(B) imposed the burden on the accused to prove that meat or flesh possessed by him/her does not belong to these animals. The state government had filed an appeal in the top court.
The top court had on 25 August observed that after the verdict by a nine-judge constitution bench, the right to eat the food of one's choice was now protected under privacy.
Several individuals and organisations have challenged the high court's verdict upholding the ban on slaughter imposed by the state government.
The Maharashtra government had approached the apex court challenging the high court's verdict striking down sections 5 (D) and 9(B) of the 1995 Act on the ground that it infringed upon a person's "right to privacy".
The high court had termed as "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.
It had upheld the ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks imposed by the Maharashtra government, but had decriminalised the possession of beef in case the animals were slaughtered outside the state.
The state government, in its appeal before the apex court, has assailed the verdict, 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".
It 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 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 unsurmountable circumstance readily available to the wrongdoer to escape sentence".
The verdict 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.
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The apex court said that the high court ought to have appointed an amicus curiae in the absence of counsel, adding that "the liberty of a citizen cannot be taken away in this manner".
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