A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on a clutch of petitions challenging Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra laws allowing bull-taming sport ‘Jallikattu’ and bullock cart races.
The bench, headed by Justice K.M. Joseph and comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C.T. Ravikumar, asked parties to file a collective compilation of written submissions within a week, while reserving the judgment.
A battery of senior lawyers represented the Tamil Nadu government before the Supreme Court defending the state’s law permitting jallikattu. The state government, in a written response, had said jallikattu is not merely an act of entertainment, but rather an event with great historic and cultural value.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing one of the petitioners, countered the argument that jallikattu is part of Tamilian culture. Luthra said merely saying that it is a culture cannot be held to mean it is part of a culture and assuming that it is a culture, should all cultures be allowed in today’s day.
In May 2014, a two-judge bench of the apex court, in Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja, banned the use of bulls for jallikattu events in the state, and bullock cart races across the country. Luthra said Nagaraja said these animals are unfit for this sport and even if it has continued for years, doesn’t mean it was allowed.
Senior advocate K. Venugopal, representing one of the petitioners, urged the court to see whether this sort of primitive urge that there are spectators who go to watch bulls with sharp horns being grappled by people should be permissible. “Does this practice today do not take us 2000 years ago?” he asked.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing one of the petitioners, said jallikattu is a blood sport. At this, the bench questioned him, how it is a blood sport as people are participating with bare hands.
Divan said blood sport in the generic sense means inflicting cruelty on the animal through baiting and that can happen in different manners on different occasions.
Justice Roy further queried Divan just because there is death, it does not mean jallikattu is a blood sport and people there are not going to kill the animal, and blood may be an incidental thing.
The central law, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, was amended by Tamil Nadu to allow jallikattu. In one of the petitions, animal rights body PETA, has challenged the state law that allowed the bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu.