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Preserve cows and bulls but do not go after someone who innocuously consumes beef, the petitioners challenging the controversial ban on slaughter of bulls and possession and consumption of the bovine meat in Maharashtra told the Bombay High Court here today.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and S C Gupte is at present hearing a bunch of public interest litigations challenging Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act.

While the original Act banned slaughter of cows in 1976, the recent amendments prohibit slaughter of bulls and bullocks too, making it an offence punishable with five-year jail term and Rs 10,000 fine. Possession of meat of a cow, a bull or a bullock can attract one year in jail and Rs 2,000 fine.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, for one of the petitioners, argued that prohibition of slaughter is understandable but by criminalising even possession and consumption of beef, the state government has violated the fundamental rights of the citizens.

“Preserve cows and bulls but do not go after the citizens. The state is going after someone who innocuously consumes and possesses beef. Beef possession and its consumption is not harmful. It is not like drugs or ivory where mere possession itself is harmful,” Chinoy said.

He further argued that the government has nowhere given a satisfactory explanation as to why the sections which criminalise possession and consumption of beef are included in the Act and why they are necessary for its implementation.

“This is completely intrusive and draconian,” he said.

The arguments would continue tomorrow.

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