SC seeks Centre, Kerala replies on plea against ban on animal sacrifice

New Delhi Hearing a plea challenging the validity of a Kerala law that prohibits animal sacrifice for appeasement of deity in temples, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that there was an apparent contradiction in our laws which allow killing of animals for consumption but prohibit such killing when it comes to offering the meat as sacrifice for deity and then consuming it.

Heading the three-judge bench, Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said,“There is a dichotomy in law. Killing animals and consuming is allowed. But killing animals, offering to deity and then consuming is not permissible.”

Killing of animals for consumption of their meat is allowed as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. However, the law which is under challenge in the present case, the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 (Act), prohibits killing of animals for appeasement of deity in temples and temple precincts even though such meat is later consumed by humans.

The court issued notice to the Kerala government, central government and Animal Welfare Board in the plea. The case is now likely to be heard on August 10 along with similar cases from Himachal Pradesh and Tripura concerning validity of animal sacrifice in temples.

The Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act was challenged on the ground that it violates right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 and the right to practice religion and manage religious affairs under articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

The petitioners, who are followers of Shakthi worshipping tradition, claimed that appeasing deity through animal sacrifice is an essential religious practice mandated by religious texts and scriptures followed by them and they should, therefore, be permitted to do the same.

“In Shakthi worship as per its scriptures and practices popularly known as “pramanas”, animal sacrifice is essential and unavoidable for the propitiation of the deity”, the petition filed through advocate A Karthik stated.

The Act was earlier challenged before the Kerala high court, which on June 16 dismissed the plea. The Act imposes ban on sacrifice of animals and birds in temples for propitiation of deity and criminalises the same. Violation of the law attracts jail term of upto 3 months and fine of Rs. 300.

The petitioners claimed that the Act violates right to equality because identical practices by other religious communities are not prohibited by the Act.

Further, it was also contended that the Act only penalizes killing of animals for propitiation of deity and animal or bird sacrifice for all other purposes including personal consumption within temple precincts is not prohibited.

“If the object of the law were to ensure preservation and protection of animals, it would demand its uniform application across all religious communities”, the petition stated.

The petitioners also submitted that the law enacted by the central government to prevent cruelty to animals, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 specifically permits sacrificing animals as ritual in Hindu temples throughout India.

“Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 is repugnant to the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 insofar as the Act operates in the same entry and criminalizes an act which the Union Legislation chooses explicitly not to criminalize”, the plea added.

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