New Delhi, July 16 : The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from the Kerala government on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of a Kerala state law, which prohibits sacrifice of animals and birds in temples to please the deity.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and A.S. Bopanna said that there seems to be a dichotomy, as killing animals and consuming them is allowed, but sacrificing animals, offering them to the deity and then consuming them is not allowed.
"Under 1960 law, it's permissible to kill an animal but not to be cruel to an animal. Killing is not cruelty," asked the Chief Justice. After a brief hearing on the matter, the bench issued a notice on the plea.
The observation from the top court came on a plea filed by P.E. Gopalakrishnan, contending that animal sacrifice was an integral part of his religious practice. The petitioner has challenged the Kerala High Court stating that it violates his fundamental right under Article 25(1) of the Constitution.
"If the object of the law was to ensure preservation and protection of animals, it would demand its uniform application across all religious communities," contended the plea.
The Kerala High Court had on June 16 declined to entertain a plea challenging the validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act. The high court observed that no material has been furnished on record to establish the practice was essential to the religion.
"The impugned Act criminalises the intent behind 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 a temple, it is not forbidden. This arbitrary classification is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," the plea stated.
The petitioner argued that animal sacrifice is an integral part of 'Shakti' worship. He contended that as he is unable to make an offering to the deity, he apprehends facing the "wrath of Devi", and also placed several doctrinal materials on record, which included a detailed list of scriptural mandate.
According to the petitioner, these scriptures established the essentiality and inalterability of the practice of animal sacrifice as per his religious customs and traditions.