A division bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday declined to hear a bunch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the beef ban legislation in Maharashtra after one of the judges recused himself from hearing them.
"Not before a bench of which I am part of," said Justice Gautam Patel who was sitting with senior HC judge Justice Abhay Oka.
Justice Patel told the advocates appearing in the case that he was recusing himself from hearing the petitions as he, as a lawyer, had written an article in a newspaper in 2012 expressing his view after the Karnataka government proposed to pass a law banning beef in the state.
Acting Chief Justice V K Tahilramani would constitute a special bench comprising Justice Oka and another junior judge to hear the petitions.
In February 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee had granted sanction to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act. While the Act had banned slaughter of cows way back in 1976, the recent amendments prohibited slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
According to the amended Act, the sale of bulls and bullocks in the state for slaughter is an offence punishable with five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine. Besides, possession of meat of cow or of bull or bullock is also an offence for which the punishment prescribed is one year jail and Rs 2,000 fine.
While hearing the petitions, the high court in April had refused to grant an interim stay on the law on the issue of possession of beef.
Arif Kapadia, a city resident, and noted lawyer Harish Jagtiani, challenged this provision of law which says mere possession of beef in any place in the state is a crime.
According to Jagtiani, this provision of law is arbitrary and hits upon the cosmopolitan nature of the city which is home for people from various religions and communities.
Kapadia described as "draconian" section 5(D) of the Act which makes possession of meat of any cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside the state a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
Other petitions were filed by Vishal Sheth, a lawyer, and Shaina Sen, a student.
"We are Hindus who are consumers of beef, which is now part of our diet and nutrition sources. The ban on beef and criminalising its sale and possession violates fundamental rights of citizens," the duo had said.
On September 21, the high court had rejected the plea in a bunch of petitions seeking the relaxation of beef ban in Maharashtra during a three-day period for Eid festival, also known as Bakri-Eid.
The court was of the view that it cannot temporarily suspend the beef ban as it was hearing petitions challenging the Act.