Tougher time seems to be in store for the Indian Muslims in Maharashtra. The BJP government in the state wants complete and hassle free access to every household (read Muslim and Dalit) to check if a person is consuming or storing beef in his house. The state government has reportedly moved to the Supreme Court to revive sections of the Act that governs the possession and procurement of the beef meat in the state.
God forbid, if the Supreme Court allows the sections of the Act revived, it will give a free hand to police officials and Gau Rakshaks –who in many cases are on state payroll to support ‘cow protection’ – to stop and search the people they suspect of possessing the meat of cows, bulls or bullocks slaughtered outside Maharashtra. Not only this, the police will get full permission to enter your house to carry out searches on whims and allegations.
The Bombay High Court had removed two sections of The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which criminalised the possession of beef, regardless of whether the animals were slaughtered in or outside the state…The reason for the judgement was that the two sections — 5(d) and 9(b), infringed on a citizen’s right to privacy.
While delivering the judgment, the Bombay High Court had said, “The state cannot make an intrusion into his home and prevent a citizen from possessing and eating food of his choice… This intrusion on the personal life of an individual is prohibited by the right to privacy which is part of the personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21”.
Now, the state BJP government has decided to approach the Supreme Court to reveive the two sections removed by the High Court. The state government contends that the right to privacy is part of the fundamental right to personal liberty, it is not a fundamental right by itself.
The state government said that the HC erroneously held privacy to be a fundamental right and struck down Section 5D permitting the police to enter homes or stop and search a person on suspicion of possessing beef. The state said the 6 May 2016 judgment could not have held privacy to be a fundamental right as at that time, the field was occupied by two SC judgments – one by an eight-judge bench in M P Sharma case in 1954 and another by a six-judge bench in Kharak Singh case in 1962 – declaring right to privacy was not a fundamental right. It is only now that a nine-judge bench is examining the status of privacy as a constitutional right, it said.
The state government in an appeal in the apex court said, “Obviously, the HC failed to appreciate the law in its correct perspective, besides failing to observe judicial discipline, which is the foundation stone of the entire justice delivery system”.
Bombay High Court had also struck down Section 9B which put the onus on the person in whose possession beef was found to prove his innocence. It had termed this a breach of Article 21. Maharashtra said, “The HC failed to consider that in a similar manner, to the Act in question, presumptions have been raised against accused and reverse burden has been placed on accused in different laws – Essential Commodities Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Foreign Exchange Management Act, Food Adulteration Act and Customs Act.”