An appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court against an order of the Kerala High Court, upholding the Constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968.
The appeal has been filed by one PE Gopalakrishnan, a Shakthi worshipper, claiming that animal sacrifice is an integral part of his religious practice and as such the High Court order impinges upon his fundamental right under Article 25(1) of the Constitution.
Vide order dated June 16, 2020, the Kerala High Court dismissed a challenge to the impugned Act, in limine. A bench comprised by 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.
The Petitioner herein through Advocate A. Karthik has stated that the order of dismissal was passed without considering the contentions raised by him in his application for impleadment.
The grounds raised by the Petitioner include:
1) Unreasonably interferes with the rights of the Petitioners under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India
The Petitioner has contended that animal sacrifice is an integral part of Shakthi worship and since he is unable to make an offering to the deity, there is a reasonable apprehension of facing the "wrath of Devi".
In support of his arguments, the Petitioner has placed several doctrinal materials on record, entailing a detailed list of scriptural mandate indicating the essentiality and inalterability of the practice of animal sacrifice to his religious customs and traditions.
2) Violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India
The Petitioner has contended that the Act criminalizes animal sacrifice to the exclusion of identical practices by other religious communities, without the same being founded on any intelligible differentia.
"If the object of the law were to ensure preservation and protection of animals, it would demand its uniform application across all religious communities," he has submitted.
It is further argued that mental condition alone i.e killing or maiming of any animal for propitiating any deity alone is the core consideration under the Act and the converse, if the act is not for propitiating any deity, but for personal consumption even in temple premises, then it is not forbidden.
"The impugned Act criminalizes the intent behind the animal sacrifice, and not animal sacrifice per se. If the sacrifice is not for propitiating any deity but for personal consumption even in the precincts of temple, it is not forbidden. This arbitrary classification is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India," the plea states.
3) Impugned Act is repugnant to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (Central Legislation) and therefore, void in view of Article 254 of the Constitution of India
The Petitioner has pointed out that while the Central legislation grants an exemption to the killing of animals for religious purposes, the impugned Act selectively criminalizes the same, thus negating the provision of the former.
"It resorts to a distinction pertaining to the terminologies used, the former employing the term 'killing', and the latter employing the term 'sacrifice'. This is done in ignorance of Section 2(b) of the State Act which defines 'sacrifice' to include within its ambit killing, and maiming," the plea states.
The petition has been drawn by Advocates Ananthu Bahuleyan, Sarveshwar Kannan and Anushka Paridkar.