Petition in Supreme Court challenges Kerala ban on animal sacrifice in temples

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A petition was filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging a Kerala law which prohibits animal sacrifice for appeasement of deity in temples and temple precincts.

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 should, therefore, be permitted.

“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 law in question, Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 (Act), therefore, violates the 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, it was submitted.

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.

A similar case from Tripura concerning validity of animal sacrifice in temples is already pending before the apex court.

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 penalises 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 criminalises an act which the Union Legislation chooses explicitly not to criminalise”, the plea added.

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