The Tripura High Court has banned sacrifice of animals and birds in temples with immediate effect and directed the state government to earmark land for opening shelter home for rearing livestock donated by devotees at these temples.
“No person including the state shall be allowed to sacrifice any animal or bird within the precincts of any one of the temples within the State of Tripura,” the order read.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh was hearing a PIL, signed in 2018, seeking whether the animal sacrifice in state temples is a secular act and whether prohibiting the practice would infringe the fundamental right to follow and propagate religion.
The bench also ordered the District Magistrate and Collectors of Gomati and West Tripura to ensure implementation of the orders at Tripureshwari Temple and Chaturdas Devata Bari Temple and directed to provide soft copies of recording from CCTV cameras installed at both temples at the end of every month to concerned authorities.
The court’s direction came in response to one of the points mentioned in the petition seeking whether putting a stop to the animal sacrifice, which has been prevalent for at least 500 years in Tripureshwari Devi Temple in Tripura’s Gomati district, can be construed as an essential and integral part of religion and if a religious practice based on ritual, custom, tenet or tradition, can be allowed to continue notwithstanding provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
As per state provisions, one goat is sacrificed every day under patronage of the district administration at Mata Tripurasundari Devi Temple and “substantial number of animals”: are sacrificed as “bali” (offering to the Goddess) on special occasions like Diwali. Mata Tripureshwari is considered to be one of 51 Hindu ‘Shakti Peethas’ and animal sacrifice is not an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion.
The petitioner argued that slaughtering animals in the name of sacrifice to a goddess is a practice in the nature of social evil and is against the Constitutional mandate and spirit. He also reasoned that the practice is cruelty against animals.
Meanwhile, the counsel for the state said that practice of animal sacrifice is a “long accepted procedure of Hindu rituals of the Tantrik method of worship of the Dash Maha Vidya (ten forms of the Goddess of the Hindus).”