Supreme Court seeks Kerala government's response in plea challenging law against animal sacrifice in Hindu temples
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Supreme Court seeks Kerala government's response in plea challenging law against animal sacrifice in Hindu temples

The petitioner contends that the intent behind killing of animals and birds is sought to be punished under the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968, rather than the act of killing itself.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice in a plea assailing the decision of the Kerala High Court to uphold the constitutional validity of a state law that bans animal and bird sacrifice in temples (PE Gopalakrishnan @ Acharya Thrypuram & Ors v. Muraleedharan T & Ors).

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 Court will hear the matter next on August 10, by which time the pleadings are required to be completed by the parties.

The PIL before the Kerala High Court had challenged the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968. On June 16, the High Court had dismissed this PIL, prompting the petitioner to approach the Supreme Court in appeal.

It is the petitioner’s case that the Act in question prohibits the killing of animals and birds in temples and temple precincts solely for the purpose of propiating a deity. Should the killing be carried out in the temple premises, although for the purpose of consumption, the same does not attract prohibition under this Act. This classification is arbitrary, according to the petitioner.

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. The Act, therefore, is arbitrary, the plea states.

“The exclusion of identical practices by other religious communities, without the same being founded on any intelligible differentia justifying the classification made by the impugned legislation.”

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.

The petitioner belongs to family that has traditionally followed Shakthi worship of which animal sacrifice is an inalienable part, the plea points out. The petitioner himself is involved in propagating the teachings of Shakthi worship and the Act in question impinges upon his fundamental rights under Articles 25 and 26, it is contended. Animal sacrifice has been an essential religious practice mandated by religious texts and scriptures, the petitioner adds.

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 plea submits,

“Despite this, the Hon’ble High Court has reasoned that there is no repugnancy between the impugned Act and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (Central Legislation) since the former is to prohibit sacrifice of animals and birds in the precincts of temples in the State of Kerala and the latter is to prevent cruelty to animals.”

This plea is similar to two pending matters before the Supreme Court touching upon the issue of animal and bird sacrifice in the states of Tripura and Himachal Pradesh. The Supreme Court has tagged this plea with the pending similar matters.

The petitioner was represented by Senior Advocates V Giri and KV Vishwanathan along with Advocates K Parameshwar and A Karthik.

The respondent was represented by Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal, who was briefed by Karanjawala & Co.

Read Petition:

P.E Gopalakrishnan @ Acharya and Ors vs Muraleedharan and Ors.pdf
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Read Order:

PE Gopalakrishnan @ Acharya and Ofrs vs Muraleedharan and Ors - 16.07.2020.pdf
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