The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday questioned the authority of the State government to take a stand in favour of Jallikattu when the Centre had issued a notification on July 11 last prohibiting the use of bulls in public performances.
A Division Bench of Justices Chitra Venkataraman and R. Karuppiah directed Additional Advocate General (AAG) K. Chellapandian to obtain instructions from the government on the question posed by them and make his submissions by Thursday.
The direction was issued during the hearing of a batch of writ petitions filed both in favour as well as against the conduct of Jallikattu. Those against the sport included Animal Welfare Board of India and S. Radha Rajan, an animal lover from Chennai. Arguing on behalf of the latter, senior counsel R. Ashok Vardhan contended that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had rightly banned the use of bulls for such events by exercising its authority under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
However, Additional Solicitor General M. Ravindran sought two weeks time to file a counter affidavit as the issue involved legal questions such as a conflict between the Centre's notification and Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009.
Then, the AAG intervened and said that the Bench could permit Jallikattu this year alone by ordering strict compliance of the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court in a series of interim orders passed by it between January 2008 and March 2011 on the issue.
Not in agreement with such a plea, Ms. Justice Chitra Venkataraman said that the Supreme Court orders were passed before the Centre's notification and hence those orders would not be relevant in the present scenario when there was a specific ban on using bulls as ‘performing animals.'
“Let there be a ban for two weeks until they (the Centre) file their counter,” the judge said prompting the AAG to say that banning the event would create a law and order problem. He said that Jallikattu had been a traditional sport of Tamils for more than 400 years.
“It is your [State government's] duty to maintain law and order. We did not expect this kind of submission. You could have challenged the notification. What were you doing since July when you pretty well knew that after July, it will be January?” the judge retorted.
Then, M. Ajmal Khan, counsel for one of the petitioners who was in favour of the sport, contended that Section 21 of the PCA Act, which empowers the Centre to issue such a notification, was unconstitutional as it gave unfettered right to the executive to override even State legislations.