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Nagpur bench: Mere possession of a dead animal’s skin would not amount to an offence

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court bench recently held that that mere possession of a dead animal’s skin would not amount to an offence under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976, which prohibits slaughtering, importing, exporting and possessing beef.

The bench of Justice V. M. Deshpande & Anil S. Kilor noted that there is no prohibition for the possession of skin of dead animals unfer the Act and further noted that even if any circular/notification/order is issued by the state government, prohibiting possession of skin, such circular will not prevail over the provisions of the statute.

The court passed the judgment on December 14 after hearing a plea by one Shafiqullaha Kha, driver of the van allegedly carrying the skin of dead cows. The petitioner sought to quash FIR against him as per section 5A ( prohibition on transportation of cow, bull or bullock from any place within state for purpose of slaughter), 5B ( prohibition on export of cow, bull or bullock within state or any place outside for slaughtering) and 5C ( prohibition on possession of flesh of cow, bull or bullock slaughtered) among others.

The prosecution had alleged that in July 2018 a van was found carrying animal’s skin and a complaint was lodged by a person who claimed to be a president of Bajrang Dal local unit and an FIR was registered in Shivaji Nagar Police station. The Police further said that they verified the complaint and it was found that the vehicle was carrying 187 skins of cow species and the same was confirmed by the Animal Husbandry department.

Advocate A V Bhide for the applicant, who challenged the FIR said that necessary documents including Udyog Aadhar Memorandum, a license under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act, and a bill prepared for selling of raw hide was provided and therefore there was no contravention of any provisions of the state Animal Preservation law.

Additional Public Prosecutor N S Rao, appearing for the Police, however, strongly opposed the plea and sought its dismissal.
After hearing submissions, the court observed that while there were allegations that the applicant was carrying 187 skins of cows in the van, there was no allegation that he was transporting or exporting cow, bull or bullock for purpose of slaughter. Thus, no offence constitutes against the applicant as per the Act of 1976, the bench said.

The bench led by Justice Deshpande observed, “There is no doubt that the skin is not covered under the provisions of the Act of Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976. Thus, there is no prohibition for the possession of skin of dead animals and in absence of such prohibition, we have of a convinced view that no offence under Section 5-(A), 5-(B), 5-(C) attracts in the present matter and consequently Section 9 and 9-(A) ( both providing punishments under the law) also would not attract.”

While quashing FIR against the applicant, the court held, “Moreover, in absence of any statutory provision, which prohibits possession of skin of a dead animal, even if, any circular or notification or order has been issued by the State Government, prohibiting possession of skin, such circular, notification or order which has no statutory force will not prevail over the provisions of the statute and to that extent, it would be in contravention with the statute. Thus, the contravention of any such notification or circular or order as regards possession of skin will not attract Section 188 (contempt of lawful authority of public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.”

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