Supreme Court judge Justice Indu Malhotra on Monday recused herself from hearing a batch of appeals and cross-appeals challenging a Bombay high court verdict which held that mere possession of beef of animals slaughtered outside the state cannot invite criminal action.
A bench headed by Justice A M Sapre said that Justice Malhotra was recusing herself from the hearing as she had earlier appeared as a lawyer in the case.
Now the petitions would be listed before an 'appropriate bench' by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The apex court, on August 17, 2016, had sought the response of the Maharashtra government on the plea of 'Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh' against the high court order.
Later, as many as 33 petitions were filed in the apex court by different individuals and organisations.
The high court, on May 6, 2016, had said that the provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised possession of beef, was an infringement on the right to privacy of citizens and unconstitutional.
The high court had also upheld the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks in Maharashtra while striking down two sections of the state act which criminalised possession of beef.
Striking down sections 5(d) and 9(b) of the act which criminalised and imposed punishment for possession of beef of animals slaughtered in the state or outside, the high court had held that the state cannot control what a citizen does in his house, which is his own castle, provided he is not doing something contrary to the law.
"Sections 5(d) which provides that no person shall have in his possession flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered outside Maharashtra is unconstitutional and infringes upon a citizen's right to privacy," the high court had said.
The court had also modified section 5(c) of the act, which makes possession of beef of animal slaughtered in the state an offence, and had said only 'conscious possession' of such meat will be held as an offence.
The high court's order had come on a bunch of petitions challenging the provision of the law which had said that mere possession of beef in any place in the state is a crime.
In February 2015, the president 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, possession and consumption of their meat.
As per the act, slaughter attracts a five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine and possession of meat of bull or bullock attracts one-year jail and Rs 2,000 fine.