The Kerala High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968, which prohibits propitiation of deity through sacrifice of animals and birds in temples and temple precincts.
The bench comprising the Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that there are no materials on record to substantiate which community of the religion is required under the Hindu or any other religion, to kill an animal, for propitiating, if not personal consumption, in the manner required in the religion.
Two persons, Muraleedharan T. and Vimal CV, had approached the Court challenging the validity of the Act contending that it adversely affects them in practicing the religion, as per the custom and practice inscribed in texts and scriptures. They further contended that other religions like Christianity, Islam or the like also, have similar set of practices and propitiating sacrifice to Jehovah is considered as a sacrament as per Biblical tenets. Another argument was that the Act is repugnant to Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 which clearly excludes animal killing in relation to religious purposes from the rigour of an offence, if it is done in a manner required by the religion of any community.
Not Essential Practice
Taking note of Apex Court judgments on the subject, the bench observed that unless the acts are essentials of the religion, they are not protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
"Therefore, merely by stating that freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation as well as freedom to manage religious affairs are protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners are entitled to get the reliefs as sought for, to continue with sacrifices for propitiating any deity, cannot be sustained. So much so, no materials are forthcoming to establish that sacrificing animals and birds are essentials of the religion to drive home the case that Act, 1968 is interfering with Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution"
Referring to various provisions of the two enactments: Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the bench observed that the object and the purpose of the Acts are entirely different. It also noted that the expression used in Section 28 of the PCA Act is "killing" and not sacrifice and, therefore, the said provision is intended to protect the manner of killing by any particular community, but not for any religious purpose. It said:
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is an Act to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and for that purpose, to amend the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. Whereas, the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 is an Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to prohibition of the sacrifice of animals and birds in or in the precincts of Hindu temples in the State of Kerala. The former is to prevent cruelty to animals and the latter is to prohibit sacrifice of animals and birds in the precincts of temples in the State of Kerala. Bare reading of the above makes its abundantly clear that the object and the purpose of both the Acts are entirely different. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 does not employ the word "sacrifice", which in the latter Act of the State - Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968, as per Section 2(b), has been defined as killing or maiming of any animal or bird, for the purpose, or with an intention of propitiating any deity.
The Judgment also refers to the Tripura High Court judgment which banned the animal/bird sacrifice in the temples. Upholding the validity of the Act, the bench observed thus:
"State has brought out the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 with an object sought to be achieved i.e, to prohibit killing of animals and birds in or in the precincts of Hindu temples in the State of Kerala, in the name of sacrifice or with an intention of propitiating any deity. Though grounds have been raised that other religions permit sacrifices and that there is discrimination, violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India, Mr.P.Sathisan, learned counsel for the petitioners, contended that he is not pressing the ground. Placing on record, there is no need to advert to the same. "
Click here to Read/Download Judgment