Maharashtra to appeal HC order making beef legal

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday said the state government will file petition in the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court's order to to legalise possession and consumption of beef in the state while continuing the ban on cow slaughter.

The court has partially struck the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act exempting possession and consumption of beef from outside. However, the court has upheld the constitutional validity of sections of the Act which ban slaughter in the state.

The court further said mere possession will be read down as conscious possession. This essentially means that unless someone is consciously bringing in meat into Maharashtra, the burden of proving his innocence is not on the person (See: HC allows eating beef in Maharashtra, but slaughter ban stays).

The ban on beef has been opposed from within the Bharatiya Janata Party itself, as Bhimrao Dhonde, the BJP legislator from the drought-hit Beed district in parched Marathwada, said the government's priority should be to support farmers, and they should be allowed to sell their cattle to whomever they want.

"It is time to withdraw the ban," Dhonde stated adding that the government's ban on sale of unproductive cattle has adversely impacted farmers as they had to bear additional burden.

The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party said the order was a big blow to the state government as it had enforced a complete beef ban and made the sale or consumption of the meat punishable by a five-year jail-term and Rs10,000 fine.

Both the Congress and NCP alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party's real face stood exposed as the BJP-led government was bent on imposing a particular life style on others and also pursuing the divisive politics.

Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant alleged that BJP's intention since beginning was not noble but aimed at creating divisions among various communities. ''The high court order partially striking down has exposed BJP's political ploy,'' he said.

NCP spokesman Nawab Malik while welcoming the high court order said people habituated to eat bull and bullock meat will continue to do so from now. ''The fundamental right has been restored,'' he opined.

Dhonde said that more than 3,50,000 cattle in Marathwada are housed in the camps located in the worst-affected districts of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad.

While referring to the state finance minister Sudhir Mungatiwar's announcement in the annual budget on the establishment of "Govardhan Govansh Raksha Kendra" in 34 rural districts for rearing of non-lactating and unproductive cattle breed with participation of NGOs, he said so far not a single such centre has been formed and there has been no transfer of non-lactating and unproductive cattle there. The one-time grant of Rs1 crore as announced has yet to reach to districts.

Interestingly, BJP's ally the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) reiterated its opposition to the state law saying that it has not resulted in an increase in the number of cattle though there has been rise in milk production.

State SSS chief Sadabhau Khot observed that the high court's order allowing eating and keeping of beef from outside Maharashtra will not help the local farmers as the ban on sale of unproductive cattle continues.

He claimed that cattle are dying of thirst and hunger. Khot demanded that the government should step up its efforts to save cattle while providing due attention on farmers.