The AAP government today defended in the Delhi High Court a law criminalising possession and consumption of beef in the national capital, saying the state was obligated under the Constitution to protect cows and other milch and draught animals from slaughter. The Department of Animal Husbandry of the Delhi government made the submission on an affidavit filed before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar which listed the matter for further hearing on May 16. The department has said that “the Article 48 of the Constitution casts an obligation on the state to take steps to preserve, improve and prohibit slaughter of cows, calves and other milch animals and draught cattle”. “Therefore, the provisions of the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act criminalising the possession and consumption of beef in the national capital be not declared as unconstitutional,” it has argued.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL challenging the Constitutional validity of those provisions of the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act which criminalise possession and consumption of beef in the city. The plea filed by law student Gaurav Jain and an NGO working for the development of Scheduled Castes and Tribes has claimed that the Cattle Preservation Act (CPA) was “a case of legislative overreach”.
They have contended that “prohibition on possession and consumption of beef per se as under Cattle Preservation Act is in violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioners and other persons similarly situated, as it infringes on their personal liberty” and causes “hostile discrimination having no nexus with the object of the Act”. “The right to eat the food of one’s choice is an integral part of the right to life and liberty,” the PIL has said, adding that the Constitution “mandates the State not to make law towards enforcement of a particular religious practice”.
The petitioners have claimed that the Act was a “gross encroachment on the rights of the petitioners to chose what they can eat”. The petition has also said that SCs and STs “often have diet containing meats” and contended that “these communities are directly affected by enforcement of the Act”.