AGARTALA, Sept 28 - In a landmark judgment, a division bench of the High Court of Tripura has put a blanket ban on animal sacrifice in temples and by any individual or organisation.
The order was passed following a PIL filed by former district judge Subhas Bhattacharjee, seeking a ban on animal sacrifices, in April last year.
In the order, the bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjoy Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh on Friday instructed the State Chief Secretary to strictly comply with the directive and ruled that the district magistrates should ensure strict compliance with the order, especially at the Mata Tripureshwari temple at Udaipur and the Chaturdash Devta temple in West Tripura district.
The order said that animals brought for sacrifice to the temples may be ritually consecrated by priests and then sent to slaughter houses. Similarly, no individual should be allowed to commit animal sacrifice anywhere, and the order should be strictly complied with.
Arguing in the case, Tripura Advocate General Arun Kanti Bhowmik said that such a blanket ban would amount to infringing on the fundamental right of religious freedom enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution. But the bench found the argument unacceptable, pointing out that the Constitution itself bans animal sacrifice.
Animal sacrifice under government patronage has been continuing in the temples of Mata Tripureshwari and Chaturdash Devta as part of the Instrument of Accession signed by princely Tripura on August 13, 1947, and as part of the merger agreement signed in October, 1949.
The Government of India had given a commitment that public funds would be used to maintain and continue the customs and religious rituals in these royally patronised temples.
Significantly, no documentary evidence was produced before the court substantiating that animal sacrifice was included in the Instrument of Accession and the merger agreement.
Meanwhile, reacting to the High Court order, royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarman today said that the court cannot overrule the provisions of the merger agreement inked on October 15, 1949. “The High Court could have consulted with all the stakeholders and representatives of civil societies before passing the judgment. I am personally against cruelty towards animals”, he told media persons.
An IANS report adds: The Tripura Government is likely to file a petition in the Supreme Court against the judgment passed by the High Court on Friday, top officials said in Agartala on Saturday.
Tripura royal family leaders said that the High Court cannot overrule the provisions of the merger agreement which was signed on October 15, 1949 between regent Maharani Kanchan Prabha Devi and the Governor General of India.
Meanwhile, animal rights activists have welcomed the ban on animal sacrifice, saying it would end cruelty to animals in the name of religion.
Advocate General Bhowmik said that the State government after studying the High Court verdict may file a petition before the Supreme Court against the judgment.
The High Court order said that the traditional practice of animal sacrifice was totally banned at the Gudhima temple in Nepal and in a very old temple in Himachal Pradesh.
“The State Government should give due publicity and also sensitise the general public of the constitutional values and implementation of the Court order,” the High Court said.