SC won't interfere in animal sacrifice
The Supreme Court today refused to order the government to ban any form of animal sacrifice during religious festivals, saying courts couldn't close their eyes to practices followed by generations.
- Published 29.09.15
New Delhi, Sept. 28: The Supreme Court today refused to order the government to ban any form of animal sacrifice during religious festivals, saying courts couldn't close their eyes to practices followed by generations.
A bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy said that in villages, there is a belief that if animals are sacrificed, it might lead to rains, and courts shouldn't "interfere" with such faith-based traditions.
"The act gives them the right to kill animals," the bench told senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, referring to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which provides for such sacrifices for religious purposes.
"We don't want to interfere. In villages there is a belief that if you sacrifice animals, they may get rains. These rights are there in the legislation. The legislature itself did not find anything wrong in animal sacrifices as it is a religious belief and faith," the bench said.
The bench was dealing with a petition filed by the president of a Tamil Nadu-based NGO who had sought a directive declaring animal sacrifice, whether in the name of religion or otherwise, unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life).
Varaaki Radhakrishnan - who heads the Indian Makkal Mandram (Indian Citizens Forum) - wanted Section 28 of the 1960 Act declared unconstitutional as it condoned the practice of killing animals in the name of religion.
The PIL wanted a ban - across faiths - on "the practice of killing of animals in the name of religion... throughout the territory of India".
Ramachandran later modified his plea, saying the petitioner was, as such, not totally opposed to animal sacrifice but to the cruelty the animals are subjected to.
Such rituals, he contended, went against the 1960 law as they spread panic among other animals watching the sacrifices. Children, too, were left with bitter memories after they watch such spectacles, he added.
Justice Dattu, heading the bench, brushed aside the arguments, saying such "problems" may happen in an isolated temple. "But it can't be a generalised statement. At the end of the day, the courts have to strike a balance of harmony between religious beliefs and faith," the judge said.
"We can't be closing our eyes to the centuries-old traditions being observed by generation after generation," he added.
Ramachandran told the bench that Himachal Pradesh High Court had banned animal sacrifice in the state and an appeal against that October 2014 order was pending in the top court.
A high court division bench, which invoked the doctrine of "parens patriae" that grants states the authority to protect those legally unable to act on their own, had said the "practice of animal and bird sacrifice is abhorrent and dastardly".
But the apex court refused to consider Ramachandran's plea. It, however, allowed him to withdraw the PIL with the liberty to raise his grievance when the appeal against the Himachal High Court's 2014 order comes up for hearing.
In effect, it meant the apex court had not foreclosed the issue, but had left the matter to be decided by another bench that would hear the appeal against the high court's order.