The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it would not permit “unregulated slaughter of animals anywhere” as there is a need to maintain hygiene, and sought the Maharashtra government’s reply on a plea against ban on animal sacrifice within the protected area of Vishalgad fort in Kolhapur.
The petition filed by the Hajrat Peer Malik Rehan Mira Saheb Dargah Trust challenged the directive issued by the Deputy Director of Archaeology and Museums, Mumbai on February 1 this year prohibiting illegal animal slaughter in the name of sacrifice to Gods.
The directive cited a 1998 high court order that prohibited animal sacrifice in the names of Gods or Goddesses at public places.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale on Thursday directed the state government to file its affidavit in response to the petition and posted the matter for hearing on July 5.
The bench, however, pointed out to the petitioner’s advocate S B Talekar that it would not permit any unregulated or unmonitored slaughter of animals.
“Let us make it clear, we are not going to permit any unregulated or unmonitored slaughter of animals anywhere. There needs to be some level of civic hygiene and sanitation maintained,” Justice Patel said.
The bench added that there was also a need to preserve the area surrounding the fort.
The petitioner had in the plea claimed animal sacrifice was an age-old practice of the dargah and that the recent ban was issued under the influence of right-wing outfits or Hindu fundamentalists.
To this, the bench said, “It might be an age-old tradition. The petitioner has also tried to put a communal spin to the issue. Let us be very clear that we will dismiss the petition on this ground itself saying it is motivated.”
The petition had claimed that the ban was passed to “please the majority community for political gains by the party in power”.
“The authorities had swung into action only under an influence exerted by right-wing Hindu fundamentalists and not because there was either a law and order problem or such slaughtering was spreading unhygienic conditions or causing the threat to the security of the monument, i.e. Vishalgad fort,” the plea said.
The petitioner said the dargah run by the trust within the fort precinct was one of the most ancient and historical monuments in Maharashtra, constructed in the 11th century and visited by both Hindus and Muslims.
It claimed that animal sacrifice at the dargah was an integral custom and that the actual sacrifice does not take place at a public place but at a privately-owned land and is performed behind closed doors.
According to the plea, these offerings are served to pilgrims and others at the dargah and have been a source of food to many poor and backward people residing in the surrounding villages of Vishalgad fort.
The petition said the directive issued banning slaughter was arbitrary, discriminatory, unjust, high handed, oppressive, and violative of their fundamental rights.