Eid al Adha in Court

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

Today 29th June is Eid al Adha ( also called Eid ul Zoha or Bakrid ) an important festival among Muslims in which an animal is sacrificed ( qurbani )..

This reminded me of a case I heard in the Allahabad High Court shortly after I was appointed a Judge there in 1991.

The petition, presented a few days before Eid al Adha, prayed that I should order ban on slaughter of buffaloes as a sacrifice during Eid.

Now it is a belief among Muslims that sacrifice of one buffalo gives the same spiritual benefit of qurbani to 7 persons which sacrifice of a goat gives to one person. So poor persons who cannot afford to buy a goat, often collectively buy a buffalo and sacrifice it, as the per head cost is much less than the cost of a goat.

I asked the counsel for the petitioner why I should ban killing of buffaloes during Eid ? He replied that buffalo is the carriage ( sawaari ) of the Hindu god Yamraj ( the god of death ). So slaughter of buffaloes hurts the religious sentiments of Hindus.

I replied that mouse is the sawaari of Lord Ganesh. Should I ban killing of mice ? Most Hindu gods ( it is said there are 330 million of them ) have some animal as a ‘sawaari’ or ‘vaahan‘. Should killing all of such sawaaris be banned ?

I added that this would be absurd. I could only prohibit killing of some animal if there is a statutory law against it. For instance, there is a law against killing of cows in most ( but not all ) states of India e.g. the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955. So I could pass an order prohibiting slaughter of cows.

There is also a Wildlife ( Protection ) Act, 1972, so I could prohibit killing of wildlife.

But to prohibit killing of some animal, though there is no law for that,  just because someone’s religious feelings are allegedly ‘hurt’, would not only have no legal justification, but would also raise a host of problems. Which animal is sacred ? Opinions may differ on that ? When do religious feelings get ‘hurt’ ? Again, opinions may differ.

I dismissed the petition, saying I would only enforce the law, not sentiments.

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