The animals which are valuable to human beings for food, agriculture, labor are often treated as materialistic assets and not like living beings. These animals are often kept in unhygienic conditions and those that serve as a food source like cattle, poultry etc. are put up for slaughter and are subjected to painful and immoral methods.
Directive Principles of State Policy of Indian Constitution, under Article 48 provides for the protection of animals useful for agricultural purposes from cruelty. According to it, the State shall try to systematize activities relating to agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines, and take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. To fulfil this objective the State Government has enacted The Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976.
Scope of the Act:
This Act came into force on 1st March 1977, it extends to whole of Maharashtra and applies to cows, bulls, bullocks and to other scheduled animals which are bovines, female buffaloes, and buffalo calves. The State Government of Maharashtra can add any species of animal to the schedule as per Section 3(e)of the Act. It is a single complete Act, consolidating all the provisions for protection of these animals. This Act prohibits slaughter and preserves, cows, bulls and bullocks useful for milch, breeding, draught or agricultural purposes and provides for restriction on slaughter for the preservation of certain other animals suitable for the said purposes.
After passing of this Act, the Hyderabad (Slaughter of Animal), Bombay Animal Preservation Act, Central Provinces and Bearer of Animal Preservation Act, stood repealed.
Important Provisions Relating to Slaughter:
- Cows, Bulls, and Bullocks –
- According to Section 5 of the Act, their slaughtering is prohibited in the state of Maharashtra unless any law, custom, usage permits otherwise.
- Their transportation for purpose or with the knowledge of slaughter, within or outside the state is prohibited as per Section 5A.
- Their export either by the person himself or through any other person for the purpose of slaughter is prohibited by Section 5B.
- According to Section 5C, they shall not be sold or offered to be purchased by any person, for the purpose or with the knowledge of slaughter.
- Bovines, female buffaloes and buffalo calves
- According to Section 6(1), slaughtering of these has been prohibited unless certificate has been obtained by competent authority or there is any custom, law, usage otherwise.
- Under Section 6 (2), Conditions for obtaining certificate have been prescribed according to which it should not be or become economical for the purpose of draught or any kind of agricultural operations. If such an animal is male it shall not be economical for the purpose of breading, if it is female shall not be economical for the purpose of giving milk or bearing offspring.
- According to Section 6(3) a person may make application within 60 days, in case of refusal of certificate, to State Government, which then can examine the refusal order regarding its legality and then pass appropriate order.
- According to Section 6(4) Certificate may be granted after the fees are paid as prescribed under the Act.
- Section 6(5) provides that subject to the above-mentioned provisions the orders passed by state government and competent authority shall be final and shall not be questioned in court.
- If the certificate has been granted, then such an animal shall not be slaughtered in any place except the space specified by authority appointer by state government in this behalf as per Section 7 of the Act.
Competent authority appointed by state:
According to Section 4 of the Act, State Government may by notification appoint one or more persons, or one or more body of persons to perform the functions of competent authority and the area within which they shall perform such functions.
Powers of Competent Authority:
- According to Section 8 (1), competent authority may, enter and inspect any place where it believes that offence in contravention to this Act, has been committed.
- According to Section 8(2) every person in occupation of such place shall allow competent authority to enter and inspect.
Powers of a Police Officer
- Section8(3) of the Act lays down power of police officer or any person authorized by state government for ensuring provisions relation to cows, bulls and bullocks are complied with –
- Either himself or authorize someone in writing, to enter, stop and search any vehicle which according to him is being used to export of cow, bullock, bull as per 8(3)(a)
- Seize or authorize the seizure of any cow, bull, bullock or any vehicle in relation to which this Act, is being contravened and produce the same in front of the court and foe safe custody while proceedings are pending, according to Section 8(3)(b).
- While the proceedings are pending such bull, bullock, cow shall be handed to –
- Hinsa Nirvan Sangh and
- Other Animal Welfare organizations willing to accept such animals.
- The accused shall pay maintenance for the period in which they remain in custody of such organization by the order of court.
- For such and seizure Section 100 of Criminal Procedure Code will be applicable as per Section 8(4).
- According to Section 9, slaughtering, transportation or export of cow, bull, bullock is punishable with imprisonment of 5 years or 10,000 rupees or both.
- In special cases the reason of which shall be recorded in writing, punishment shall not be less than 6 months and fine shall not be less than 1,000 rupees.
- According to Section9A, possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock whether slaughtered within or outside of state and for slaughtering of Bovines, female buffaloes and buffalo calves is punishable with imprisonment of 1 year or with a fine which may extend to 2000 rupees.
- The offences under this Act, shall be cognizable and non-bailable as per Section 10 of the Act.
- Whoever abets and attempts to commit the offence under Section 9or 9A shall be deemed to have committed the offence and shall be punished accordingly, as per Section 11 of the Act.
- According to Section 13, no suit or proceedings or legal proceedings shall lie against a person for acts done by him in good faith and according to this Act.
- According to Section 12, all persons exercising the power under this Act, shall be deemed to be public servants under Section 21 of IPC.
According to Section 14 this Act, shall not apply to any animal other than cow, bull, bullock which are-
- Operated upon for vaccine lymph, vaccine, serum at any institution established, conducted or recognized by the state government.
- Used for any research and experimental purpose at any institution established, conducted or recognized by the state government.
- Slaughter of which is certified by surgeon appointed by state Government in this behalf to be necessary for public health
- Are suffering from any disease, which in the opinion of the surgeon is contagious and dangerous for other animals.
- No such animal shall be slaughtered unless certificate has been obtained by competent authority.
Constitutional validity of the amended provisions under Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1995:
In the case of Sheikh Zahid Mukhtar v State of Maharashtra MANU/MH/0670/2016 brought before the Bombay HC the petitioners argued that the incorporation of Section 5D violates the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, which includes the right to choose one’s own food, and that Section 9B imposes a negative duty on a person who is found in possession of the meat.
The court accepted the notion of ‘conscious possession,’ which declares that ‘possession with the knowledge that the meat is of a cow, bull, or bullock slain in violation of Section 5 of the Animal Preservation Act,’ and maintained the constitutionality of Section 5C. The Court ruled that Sections 5D and 9B are unconstitutional because they are neither fair, just, or reasonable. The Court was of the opinion that prohibiting the possession of cow, bull, or bullock meat slaughtered outside of the country violates Article 21’s right to privacy, which is a fundamental aspect of human liberty.
This Act protects animals specified under it, from being slaughtered. Conditions have been prescribed in order to obtain certificate from competent authority for slaughter of animals in cases where slaughtering is permitted. Offences and penalties have also been provided. Proper authorities have been appointed for performance of search and seizure under this Act. The Act, ensures that the animals specified by the Act, are not only protected against inhuman slaughter but also provides for protection of such animals who are transported, traded with the intention of slaughter, hence this Act, not only protects these animals but also secures their welfare therefore securing the object as mentioned under Article 48 of the Indian Constitution.