Supreme Court seeks Kerala government’s reply in plea challenging law prohibiting animal sacrifice in Hindu temples

    The Supreme Court in PE Gopalakrishnan @ Acharya Thrypuram & Ors v. Muraleedharan T & Ors. agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 that prohibits animal sacrifice including birds in temples to ‘please’ the deity.

    The Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna issued notice in the petition and sought a reply from the State of Kerala.

    The Bench also highlighted the dichotomy in animal protection law that follows killing of animals for food but does not permit killing of animals for offering it to a diety and then consumption.

    Animal Sacrifice, Plea in Kerela HC

    On June 16, the Kerala high court dismissed the PIL challenging the validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 on the ground that no material was brought on record to establish that the practice was essential to the religion.

    Furthermore, the petitioners have contended before the High Court that provision of Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960, permit sacrifice for the purpose of religious practice.

    The High Court had observed that Prevention of Cruelty Act does not have the word “sacrifice” for the purpose of religion. The petitioner approached the Apex Court and contended that the High Court dismissed the PIL without considering the contentions raised in his application.

    Contentions in SC regarding animal sacrifice

    The petitioner argued that animal sacrifice is an integral practice of ‘Shakti’ worship and due to the law he was not able to do the offering. This Act in question impinges upon his fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26. “Animal sacrifice has been an essential religious practice mandated by religious texts and scriptures” added petitioner .

    Moreover, the plea also raises the grounds of the statute being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution given that it bars such sacrifices only in one religion and excludes identical practices in other religions, therefore the plea termed the Act arbitrary.

    The petitioner contends that the intent behind killing of animals and birds is sought to be punished under this Act rather than the act of killing itself. This is evident from the exclusion of other religions from the ambit of the Act on the grounds that the sacrifice in faiths other than in Hinduism is followed by the consumption of meat of the animal thus sacrificed, the plea claims.

    Besides, this Act also goes against the provisions of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the plea states and argues that it is void in view of Article 254 of the Constitution of India. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is a Central legislation which exempts killing of animals for religious purposes from its ambit. On the other hand, the statute under challenge in the instant case is a state law which “selectively criminalises the same, thus negating the provisions of the former.”

    The Supreme Court has tagged this plea with the pending similar matters of Tripura and Himachal Pradesh.

    The Court will hear the matter next on August 10.