Legal Restrictions on Religious Slaughter of Animals

Author: Siddharth Shankar Singh, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

What is religious slaughter?

Religious slaughter refers to a process in which an animal (cattle in most cases) is slaughtered for either completing or starting a ritual. This could be for any purpose ranging from but not limited to gaining good luck, marriage, having a child, etc. But generally, it is to appease some sort of deity. In some cultures, only part of the animal is sacrificed, and the rest is burned. In others, all parts of the animal are either slaughtered or burned to propose as an offering. Nonetheless, it is all superficial belief in a broad sense, so that shouldn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion.

Laws related to the prevention of animal cruelty in India

There are a number of laws in India that aim to effectively address the problem of animal cruelty, including religious slaughter. These are distributed in different compartments of law. Below are the most significant of them that directly deal with the issue at hand.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

The most significant and all-encompassing piece of legal document concerning the welfare of animals in India is the PCA act, 1960. Its essence was captured by the world-famous Dancer (who also happens to be an animal lover), Rukmini Devi Arundale. This legislation calls for overseeing animal welfare at multiple levels. The part that we are interested in is Heading 6 of Chapter 5[i], which calls for ‘ending killing by way of religion.’ Other important rules include:

  1. Setting up of an Animal Welfare Board
  2. Penalty for treating animals with cruelty
  3. Completely destroying animal sufferings and experimentation of animals

Courts can now take the recognizability of certain offences on their own, and they can also presume the guilt of a person. This makes it much easier now to offer punishment to the guilty. They also have the power to deprive a person (allegedly guilty of mistreating the animal) of the ownership of that animal.

In the case of “State of U.P v. Mustakeem and Ors”[ii] it was held that in cases of cruelty, the possession of animals or its custody should vest with the nearby Gaushala. The case concerned the PCA Act, 1960, where animals were tightly roped just before the execution.

In the case of “Nair, N.R. and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors[iii]it was held by the Kerala High Court that animals like Monkey, Bear, Lion, etc should not be engaged in any kind of training or performance activity in relation to an exhibition or show as it was in contravention to the PCA Act, 1960. The move was in line with the gazette notification of the Forest Ministry.

In the case of “Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja and Ors[iv]it was held that festivals such as Jallikattu, where bulls were engaged in performing races and fight, were prohibited. Again, the case was in contravention to various sections of the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act, 1960, that calls for ending unnecessary sufferings of animals.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

This is also one of the legislations that can’t be overlooked when dealing with cases concerning animals. It was finally approved in the year 1972, which made significant improvements in the Flora-Fauna condition of the country. Prior to the enactment, there were only a handful of wildlife sanctuaries. After this legislation, many of the major Wildlife reserves of the country were constructed, as now there was a proper law in place to deal with the problems associated with handling such a vast number of animals.

This law established certain schedules in itself under which the governance of different animals will be undertaken. Different schedules are prescribed, taking into consideration the level the animals are exposed to out there.

It calls for:

  1. The establishment of authorities for the purpose of the act
  2. Appointment of National Board for Wild Life
  3. Appointment of State Board for Wild Life
  4. Complete eradication of Hunting
  5. Protection of animals and plants specified under schedules
  6. Declaration of National Parks
  7. Declaration of Closed Areas and Protected Areas
  8. Award of Punishments on non-compliance

Offences Under the Indian Penal Code

There are several sections in the IPC that, although do not directly deal with animal cruelty/slaughter, the implications of which could easily be carried out in those cases. Following are the most important ones.

Section 269 and 270: Under these, any animal that hasn’t been registered to be legally killed in India will, upon slaughter, attract penal actions, when done intentionally or unintentionally, as knowledge of the law is presumed to be on the parties. Also, carrying out any animal-related work, which might cause a dangerous disease to spread in public, will attract certain penal provisions and punishments relating to these two provisions.

In the case of “People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Union of India[v] it was held that any film which plans on using animals in it, has to mandatorily obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Animal Welfare Department before it can be passed by the Central Board of Film Certification.

Section 268: Under this, anything that causes public annoyance (for example, animal trade, show, etc.) would attract punishment under the IPC, like any other form of nuisance.

In the case of “Shri. Ajay Madhusudan Marathe v. New Sarvodaya CHS Ltd[vi] it was held by the Delhi Consumer Forum, that a resident cannot be prohibited from extending the facilities of society to his/her pet.

In the case of “Gauri Maulekhi v. Union of India and Ors[vii] it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, that there should be an absolute prohibition on the smuggling of cattle through country borders for their sacrifice in the Gadhimai festival conducted in Nepal.

Sections 379, 428, and 429: Under these sections, any amount of unnecessary suffering to animals will attract punishments under the IPC, and by way of Section 2(3) of the IPC, it makes the duty of the civil servants to this country act in accordance with ensuring the rights of animals and also ensuring that no amount of cruelty is endowed upon them.

In the case of “People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Union of India[viii] it was held that any film which plans on using animals in it, has to mandatorily obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Animal Welfare Department before it can be passed by the Central Board of Film Certification.

The Constitution of India

The constitution of India has also made certain guidelines and provisions regarding the peaceful and harmonious maintenance of wildlife, flora, and fauna in the country and rules regarding the protection of the same. Below are the most significant ones:

  1. Article 48(A):[ix] By way of this article, the constitution of India makes it the duty of the State to strive to protect and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  2. Article 51(A)(g):[x] Section (g) of Article 51(A) of the constitution of India makes it the duty of every citizen to try their best at protecting the forests and wildlife of the country.
  3. 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India: Introduced the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.


Some might see this as a small problem, but let me iterate this one more time, “there is no difference in cruelty to humans or animals.” At least, according to me, there shouldn’t be any. But the status-quo of this topic isn’t very encouraging as of now. In the past 10yrs, there have been multiple incidences of animal that include but are not limited to:

  1. Street animals: 720
  2. Working animals: 741
  3. Companion animals: 588
  4. Farm animals: 88
  5. Wild animals and birds: 258[xi]

Although the 42nd Amendment to The Constitution of India introduced significant changes by enacting the Prevention of Cruelty Act, there still is room for much more improvement, as India still sees a significant number of daily cases concerning animal rights violations and brutality/torture to domestic animals. I believe that the proper implementation of the above-mentioned laws will definitely yield some great results in reducing the atrocities committed on animals throughout the country and.

For the purpose of delivering even greater results, I propose the construction of the Animal Welfare Ministry, which is in line with other animal welfare groups’ previous recommendations.

As it stands today, there still remains much more to be fulfilled by the animal welfare laws of India.

[i] CHAPTER VI- MISCELLANEOUS HEADING- 28: Saving as respects manner of killing prescribed by religion, PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT, 1960

[ii] Mustakeem & Anr vs State of U.P. And Anr on 1 October, 2019         

[iii] N.R. Nair & Ors vs Union of India And Ors on 1 May, 2001

[iv] Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors on 7 May, 1949

[v] People For Ethical Treatment of Animals vs Union of India & Others on 5 March, 2009

[vi] Mr.Ajay Madhusudan Marathe vs New Sarvodaya Chs on 12 January, 2010

[vii] Gauri Maulekhi vs State of Haryana & Ors on 15 February, 2018

[viii] People For Ethical Treatment Of … vs Union of India & Others on 5 March, 2009

[ix] ARTICLE 48A in The Constitution of India 1949                                      

[x] ARTICLE 48A(g) in The Constitution of India 1949                                

[xi] Abraham, B. (n.d.). In Past 10 Yrs India Saw Nearly 5 Lakh Cases of Animal Cruelty, Unreported Could Be Much Higher. IndiaTimes. Retrieved June 19, 2021, from             ,against%20wild%20animals%20and%20birds.