Don't panic: Here's why Maharashtra govt won't ban mutton soon
The Maharashtra government's representative told the Bombay High Court on Monday that the government may consider banning slaughter of other animals as well.
Advocate General Sunil Manohar has landed himself in a soup over his comments before a bench of the Bombay High Court while attempting to defend the beef ban in Maharashtra. What is likely a throwaway remark in a courtroom has generated front page headlines that is unlikely to go down well with his employer, ie the state government.
When a division bench of Justices VM Kanade and AR Joshi asked the state government's lawyer why inly the slaughter of cows and bulls had been banned and not animals like goat, Manohar responded by saying: "This is just the start (banning of cows, bulls and bullocks). We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks."
While this response has quickly become controversial, in the courtroom, it was not taken seriously by the bench itself.
"That may lead to migration from the state. Don't consider a ban on fishes though," the judges reportedly remarked in jest.
The Advocate General reportedly clarified that the state had no intention of enforcing vegetarianism on the state's residents and only intends to regulate the meat industry.
"To regulate is not to prohibit absolutely," the advocate general reportedly told the bench.
While senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, appearing for a petitioner who has challenged the beef ban, argued that the ban was against the fundamental right of a citizen and that if the law was purely to preserve cattle in Maharashtra then the import of meat should be allowed.
However, Manohar insisted t that the government was against that as well.
"How can the state say slaughter of cattle in Maharashtra amounts to cruelty but one can slaughter outside the state? That would also amount to cruelty. The Act incidentally prohibits import also," Manohar said.
However, the high court bench pointed out to the Advocate General that banning the possession of beef would effectively prohibit slaughter outside the state of Maharashtra a as well.
"Section 5 (d) of the Act which is under challenge does not prohibit slaughter of cattle outside the state. Why should a person be prevented to eat or possess beef that has been slaughtered outside? Indirectly you (government) are prohibiting slaughter of animals outside the state too," Justice Kanade observed.
While the arguments in high court were about the larger impact of the ban of beef in the state, the outrage over the spectre of a ban on other meats has been far more visceral :
Maharashtra govt says ban on beef only the beginning ?? What's next...path breaking law to make Maha the first vegetarian state !
— ketaki ghoge (@KGhoge) April 7, 2015
#BeefBan is just the beginning, says BjP Govt in Maharashtra. Waiting for ban of all Non-veg to see how many sanghies continue to support!
— Jay Ambadi (@jay_ambadi) April 7, 2015
Maha Govt tells HC, beef ban to extend to other animals too, Mumbai will boast of having a Animal kingdom
— rajennair (@rajennair) April 7, 2015
superb... lets ban all meat and then lets ban veggies as well as they amount to plants cruelty http://t.co/6qp6RMajv3
— Apoorva Gaurav (@apoorvagaurav) April 7, 2015
— Dr.Jitendra Awhad (@Awhadspeaks) April 7, 2015
— Srinivasa Bhat (@gmsbhat) April 7, 2015
The state government has been silent so far but may be forced to clarify if only to battle the growing perception that it intends to turn Maharashtra into a vegetarian state.
But this isn't the first time a government lawyer has generated bitter controversy.
RAdditional Solicitor General P P Malhotra? The lawyer representing the central government before the Supreme Court in 2012 famously argued that the central government was opposed to the Delhi High Court's verdict decriminalising gay sex. This despite the fact that it contradicted the government's own publicly stated position. As a result, he was subsequently shunted out of the case, and the central government sent another lawyer to plead their case.
Manohar's statement is likely to put the government on the back foot given the flak it is already facing over the beef ban. The BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra can justify the beef ban to the Hindu voter base the parties rely on. But justifying a ban or even regulating the availability of other meats is a completely different ball game that neither party would want to undertake given the anger they're likely to face even from within their own core constituencies. A chicken, fish or mutton ban or restriction would see a far greater backlash than beef.
The Maharashtra government also provides financial assistance for the development of the livestock and poultry industry and any move to cut back on it is likely to see the industrial lobby up in arms as well. The Maharashtra government's will find it easier to completely dissociate itself from the Advocate General's statement and perhaps leave him by the way side, if required. Manohar will become another Malhotra, a casualty of his own courtroom antics.
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