The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Kerala government on a plea challenging a 1968 state law banning animal sacrifice in temples.
“There is a dichotomy. Killing animals and consuming is allowed. But killing animals, offering to deity and then consuming is not allowed,” said the CJI, heading a three-judge bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and A S Bopanna.
“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,” added the CJI.
He was apparently referring to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The CJI also wondered, “Maybe there is a point in saying that taking lives is permissible in certain circumstances but cruelty is not.”
The plea challenges the June 16, 2020 Kerala High Court order upholding the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968. It has been filed by a group of people following the Shakteya traditions.
The petitioners, some of them from the SC community, said “Saktha practices are an integral part of their communal culture” and their “family deities… are Shakthi form of female Goddesses who they believe are protectors of their life and harmony”.
They contended that after the ban, they “are unable to perform ‘bali’ rituals which they believe is diminishing” the family deity’s power.
The plea, filed through Advocates A Karthik, Ananthu Bahuleyan, Sarveshwar Kannan and Anushka Pardikar said, “Shaktism or Shakthi tantric practices are a major tradition of Hinduism… In Shakthi worship as per its scriptures and practices…animal sacrifice is essential and unavoidable…”
The petitioners said they are now “employing representational methods…which Shakteya tradition believe as an incomplete/flawed consecration”.
The Act, they argued, is “blatantly discriminatory” as it applies only to Hindus but does not stop other religions from practising it. They referred to bird sacrifice at a Church in Kochi and the festival of Bakrid in this regard.
“In a pluralistic society like that of Kerala…a State intervention in the form of a legislation exclusively to prohibit the religious sacrifice and killing of animals/birds by members of a particular community alone is arbitrary and violative of Article 14,” the plea contended.
The petitioners said that when questions were raised in the state assembly on applicability of the law beyond temples, “it was stated that in other religious practices, it could not be considered as sacrifice as the animals were later cooked and consumed”.
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