Don't try to ban fish as well, HC tells Phadnavis govt

The Maharashtra government has landed itself in a goulash before the Bombay High Court by telling the bench that the ban on all beef products is only a start, and other meat products may follow.

Advocate general Sunil Manohar's comments before the bench in defence of the total ban on any form of beef in the state imposed by the BJP-led Devendra Phadnavis government were almost risible.

When a division bench of Justices V M Kanade and A R Joshi asked the government advocate why only the slaughter of cows and bulls had been banned and not animals like goats, Manohar replied, "This is just the start. We may consider banning slaughter of other animals too. As of now the state felt it was necessary to protect cows, bulls and bullocks."

The bench riposted, "That may lead to migration from the state. Don't consider a ban on fish though!" Maharashtra has a large coastline, and even Brahmins in coastal areas of the state consider fish 'the fruit of the sea'.

The advocate general sought to clarify that the state had no intention of enforcing vegetarianism on the state's residents and only intends to regulate the meat industry.

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 reiterated that the government was against that as well. Under the new Phadnavis rules, even import of buffalo meat is banned, creating panic among consumers.

"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.

Clearly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise of 'minimum government, maximum governance' is merely a borrowed electoral slogan.

In the absence of any comment by the PM on his chief minister's anti-society moves, it is increasingly clear that the BJP believes quite the opposite – maximum government, minimum governance.