SC to examine validity of 52-year-old Kerala law prohibiting animal sacrifice in temples | India News

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to examine the constitutional validity of a 52-year-old Kerala law that prohibits animal sacrifice in temples and issued notice to the Kerala government on petitions by priests alleging that it discriminated on the ground of religion, for it allowed sacrifice of animals by Muslims on Bakrid and in a ceremony in a particular church.
Petitioners, through senior advocates K V Vishwanathan and V Giri, argued that the state law — Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 — was also repugnant to the central law on the issue, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, as the latter permitted animal sacrifice under customs of various religions.
Though the bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, R S Reddy and A S Bopanna agreed to examine the validity of the state law, it said killing animals was permitted under the central law but cruelty was banned. Vishwanathan and Giri cited the example of periodic culling of stray dogs by almost all municipal authorities.
The SC tagged the petition with pending appeals against judgments of the High Courts of Himachal Pradesh and Tripura banning animal sacrifice in temples. In its interim order, the SC had said in these cases, “If slaughter of animals is done for the purpose involved in the petitions, it shall be done in an area set up for the purpose by the municipal authorities.”
Petitioners challenging the Kerala law said it was unconstitutional as it singled out the Hindu community while giving permission to other religious groups to sacrifice animals and birds in connection with their religious customs. In addition to the reference to Bakrid when Muslims sacrifice animals, they mentioned the “well known Edappally St George Church where birds are sacrificed within the church premises and cooked and eaten in connection with a religious practice”.
“The Kerala Act violates Article 15 of the Constitution as a state is discriminating solely on the basis of religion and singles out Hindu temples as a class to impose restriction without reasonable basis,” the petitioners said. Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty Act (PCA) says, “Nothing in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by religion of any community.” They said it also violated the fundamental right to religion and religious practices of Hindu community guaranteed under the Constitution.
The petitioners cited the SC’s 2014 judgment in jallikattu case (bull running case) which said, “The PCA has been enacted with an object to safeguard the welfare of animals and evidently to cure some mischief and age-old practices, so as to bring into effect some type of reform based on eco-centric principles recognising intrinsic value and worth of animals. All the same, the Act has taken care of the religious practices of the community, while killing an animal vide Section 28 of the Act.”

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