Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Ban on Animal Sacrifice

Recently, the government of Tamil Nadu banned the sacrifice of animals during religious festivals. This tradition is in vogue in many Hindu temples dedicated to local dieties, especially in southern and western parts of TN. The question is, is this ban legal? I believe so.

The primary argument against the ban is that it impinges upon the Right to Freedom of Religion of the citizens in Tamil Nadu, and the courts must use strict scrutiny (to use the US legal parlance) and ask if TN has any genuine necessity in imposing the ban. This argument overlooks one fact, and in essence, seeks to strengthen the said right guaranteed by the constitution under Art 25.

Article 25 states that
Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. (emphasis added)

A particular act is protected under the Right to Freedom of Religion only if it satisfies the caveat imposed. In that sense, it is not an unqualified right, and is actually quite a lot weaker than is generally assumed. If the TN government can convince the courts that mass animal sacrifice is an unhealthy practice, disrupts public order, or is immoral, then the rights under Art 25 will not cover it anymore. Then, the courts will be under no compunction to grant the strict scrutiny demand. And I believe that this ban will manage to pass a rational scrutiny.

One caveat here - this type of conclusion would certainly open up a Pandora's box. But that is no justification for reaching a wrong conclusion in the evident case.


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