The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh has rejected a priest’s petition seeking a ban on the slaughter of animals during Id-ul-Zoha and all other religious sacrifices.
The plea was offered by Tek Chand, an octogenarian from Kathua’s Bani, who described himself as a “public-spirited Hindu temple pujari”. He was represented by lawyer Ankur Sharma, who heads Ikk Jut Jammu, a right-wing group.
Chand’s petition had sought an instruction to declare Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, which permits the killing of animals for religious purposes, as unconstitutional.
The court said the priest did not disclose how he was a “person of public spirit” before saying that “we find no basis for the claim”.
“Section 28 of the said Act provides that nothing contained in this Act shall make it an offense to kill an animal in a manner required by the religion of a community,” reads the statement. ‘order.
The bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sindhu Sharma said the courts were generally “slow to intervene in religious cases or with sentiments based on religion or the practice of a community”.
“Whether the practice of slaughtering or sacrificing animals is legal or illegal depends on the traditions and customs of a particular religion and place of worship. It is a matter of evidence that cannot be assessed in the exercise of discretionary jurisdiction,” the court observed.
“The practice of killing animals is sufficiently supported by law. As such, there was no need to issue any further instructions prohibiting the practice, if any, of killing animals and it is up to the executive to strictly enforce the law.
The court, however, said the petitioner could file a lawsuit if any provision of the law was violated by anyone.
“In the event that in certain religious places the practice of animal sacrifice is carried out in violation of the provisions of the law, the petitioner is free to approach the head of the administration of the district concerned, who will consider the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the law.”
Sharma, the petitioner’s attorney, said the court provided an enabling environment to end the practice of religious sacrifices by giving Chand the right to file a complaint with the administration. “The court said it would not be within the scope of judicial discretion for us to start weighing the evidence. Basically, it accepted our contention that it (sacrifice) is not essential to religions and does not may be permitted,” he said.
“The court has read section 28 in such a way as not to protect activities which are not covered by the essential elements of a religion … (there is an order to the district administration) that they will examine the request and will take appropriate action under the law. And the law is that only the essential elements of a religion are protected,” he added.
Anwar ul Islam Shaheen, a barrister at the High Court, said the court found no merit in the petition.
“The court explicitly ruled out declaring Section 28 unconstitutional and said it did not violate any provisions of the Constitution,” he said.
The court noted that section 28 was a saving provision and that its purpose was to exempt from criminalization the killing of animals for religious purposes. The court said it was a political decision consistent with the wisdom of lawmakers and was beyond judicial review.