The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay vide its judgement dated 14.12.2020 held that there was no prohibition on the possession of skin of animals under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 (Act of 1976).

The judgement was pronounced in a plea to quash an FIR against one Shafiqullaha Khan who was accused under provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 (MAPA) and Indian Penal Code 1834 (IPC) for carrying 187 skins of cows.

The Applicant (accused) was found driving a car consisting of 187 skins of cows leading to an FIR being registered against him for offences under Section 5-(A), 5(B), 5-(C), 9, 9-(A) of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 read with Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code 1834 and Section 105, 117 of the Bombay Police Act 1951. The complaint was made by the Non-Applicant 2 who is apparently the president of Bajrang Dal, Khamgaon.

Counsel for the Applicant, in the present case submitted that the Applicant was merely a driver of the said car which was owned by one Shaikh Suleman Shaikh Chand and that the skins were owned by Mohamad Ayub Shaikh Hussain, a Skin Merchant and Trader at Khamgaon. He added that Mohamad Ayub Sheikh Hussain had produced all the necessary documents under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act and a bill was prepared for selling of raw hide. He further submitted that none of the provisions under the Act of 1976 should be attracted in the present matter.

The Public Prosecutor on the other hand strongly opposed the contentions made by the Applicant and prayed the High Court to dismiss the application.

After hearing the merits of the present case, the Division Bench comprising of Justices V.M Deshpande and Anil S. Kilor stated that there were no allegations against the Applicant in regards to transporting or exporting cow, bull or bullock for the purpose of slaughter or for purchasing, selling or disposing off or offering to purchase or sell cow, bull or bullock for slaughter. The Coram thus held that the Applicant was not liable as per under Section 5-(A) or 5-(B) of the Act of 1976.

As far as Section 5(c) of the Act of 1976, defining the difference between “skin” and “flesh”, the Division Bench stated that the word ‘flesh’ used under Section 5(C) of the Act, 1976, does not cover the skin of animal.

After a thorough examination of all provisions charged against Kha, the Court was convinced that there is no prohibition for the possession of skin of dead animals and in the absence of such prohibition, no offence under Sections 5A, 5B, 5C was attracted in the present matter and consequently Section 9 and 9A also would not attract.

Regarding the offence charged under IPC, Section 188 (disobedience of order of public servant), the Court held that since there was neither a statutory provision prohibiting possession nor a legislative document with a statutory force there was no question of contravening the IPC provision.

In view of the same, the court found there was no offence against Kha and quashed the FIR against him.