The Supreme Court on Thursday notice in a special leave petition filed against a judgment of the the Kerala High Court upholding the Constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968.
A Bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices R. Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna heard the matter and issued notice in the same, with the CJI observing that a dichotomy existed, wherein killing animals and consuming them was allowed. However, killing of animals, offering them to a deity and then consuming them was not allowed.
"There is a dichotomy. Killing animals & consuming is allowed. But killing animals, offering to deity and then consuming is not allowed.
People talk of all kinds of things. They say in the 1960 law, it is permissible to kill an animal but it is not allowed to be cruel to the animal", CJI orally remarked.
The CJI was referring to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, which exempts killing of animals for food from punishment if it was done without inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering.
The appeal, filed by PE Gopalakrishnan, a Shakthi worshipper, claims that animal sacrifice is an integral part of his religious practice and the Order of the Kerala High Court which dismisses a challenge to the impugned Act, impinges upon his fundamental right under Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India.
On June 16, 2020, a division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly, dismissed a challenge to the Act and observed that there were no materials on record to substantiate which community of the religion under Hindus or any other religion, was required to kill an animal, for propitiating, if not for personal consumption, in the manner required in the religion.
The plea, filed by Advocate A. Karthik, states that the order of dismissal was passed without considering the contentions raised by the Petitioner in his application for impleadment before the Kerala High Court.
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.