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Petition filed in Supreme Court challenging the arbitrary ban in Kerala on animal sacrifice in temples

The appellants claimed that the Act violates the right to equality, citing similar activities by other religions that are not prohibited by the Act. They claimed that the imposition of the arbitrary law was leading to an "incomplete performance of bali (sacrifice) and diminishing the powers of kul devatha".

A plea was filed in the apex court on Thursday challenging a Kerala law that prohibits animal sacrifice for appeasement of deities in temples and temple precincts.

The appeal was filed in the top court after the Kerala High Court summarily rejected the petition against the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 on June 16. The Act bans sacrifice of animal and birds in temples for the propitiation of deity and turns it into criminal activity. The transgression of the law attracts a jail term of up to 3 months and a fine of Rs 300.

The petitioners, who are followers of Shakti worshipping tradition, argued that propitiating deities through animal sacrifice is an essential religious practice backed by religious texts and scriptures followed by them and should, therefore, be allowed.

The petition claimed that the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 criminalises the intent behind the animal sacrifice and not the act itself. “The Act criminalises 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 the temple, it is not forbidden. This arbitrary classification is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” the plea said.

The appellants claimed that the Act violates the right to equality, citing similar activities by other religions that are not prohibited by the Act. They claimed that the imposition of the arbitrary law was leading to an “incomplete performance of bali (sacrifice) and diminishing the powers of kul devatha”.

“They reasonably apprehend the wrath of Devi,” the plea contended.

The petitioners also alleged that the impugned Act violates the Central legislation that grants an exemption for the killing of the animals for religious purposes. The petition mentions Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1960, which does not render killing of animals for religious purposes a criminal offence.

Alleging the classification of the law as arbitrary, the petition said, “If the object of the law were to ensure preservation and protection of animals, it would demand its uniform application across all religious communities.”

“Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act, 1968 is repugnant to the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 insofar as the Act operates in the same entry and criminalises an act which the Union Legislation chooses explicitly not to criminalise”, the appeal added.

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