While the Supreme Court has issued notice on the appeal filed against the Judgment of the Kerala High Court, the Advocate who argued the case for the Petitioners has filed an affidavit before the High Court stating that he had argued that the state law is discriminatory against Hindus. The Kerala High Court in its Judgment (analysis of the Judgment can be read here) rejecting the challenge against the state law which prohibits animal sacrifice in Hindu Temple premises had recorded that, “Though grounds have been raised that other religions permit sacrifices and that there is discrimination, violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India, Mr. P. Sathisan, learned counsel for the petitioners, contended that he is not pressing the ground. Placing on record, there is no need to advert to the same.” The Advocate has in his affidavit denied making any submission on not pressing the ground of discrimination.
An Advocate who files or argues a case does not usually file anyaffidavit in the case. It is only in exceptional circumstances that such a practice is resorted to. In his affidavit, Sri. P. Sathisan has stated that when he argued that animals and birds are sacrificed in Christian Churches, the Bench Comprising of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly replied that only gifting or auctioning of animals happen in Churches and that no sacrifice is done. It is also stated that he had even mentioned the name of a Church where sacrifice happens. The affidavit has been filed along with a Review Petition filed before the High Court.
The parties who sought to implead themselves in the matter before the High Court to support the petitioners have now approached the Supreme Court. Senior Advocates, Sri. V. Giri and Sri. K. V. Vishwanathan appeared before Supreme Court on July, 16th when a Bench of the Chief Justice issued notice in the matter and reportedly observed that, “There is a dichotomy. Killing animals and consuming is allowed. But killing animals, offering to deity and then consuming is not allowed.” The Chief Justice is also reported to have commented on the irony in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 permitting killing of animals while prohibiting cruelty towards them, by saying, “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”.
The Judgment of the Kerala High Court had become controversial for various reasons including for adopting an unusual course of finally hearing and dismissing the challenge to a statute at the admission stage. The court had not permitted an application of petitioners to produce documents to establish that an essential religious practice of Hindus has been prohibited by the law. The court then held that “no materials are forthcoming to establish that sacrificing animals and birds are essentials of the religion to drive home the case that Act, 1968 is interfering with Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution”. On the contrary, the same Bench had dismissed a PIL filed by a registered organisation of modern medical practitioners seeking prohibition of the practice of administering holy sacrament by distributing bread and wine in Christian churches on the ground that the practice is against public health, while holding at the admission stage itself that the practice is an essential practice in Christianity.
The Supreme Court has tagged the matter with the pending appeals arising out of the Judgment of High Court of Himachal Pradesh of the year 2014 banning animal sacrifice in the state and the similar Judgment of High Court of Tripura of the year 2019. Whereas the High Court of Himachal Pradesh prohibited animal sacrifice irrespective of religion, the High Court of Tripura went into the question of essentiality of religious practice and found that the impugned practice is not an essential Hindu religious practice.