A public interest litigation petition claims such power must be retained by the legislature

A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai challenging the Constitutional validity of Section 22 (ii) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 which empowers the Centre to impose a prohibition on training or exhibiting any living creature other than a human being as ‘performing animals.’

Filed in the context of restrictions being imposed by various district Collectors for conducting Jallikattu (bull taming sport) during the Pongal season next month, the PIL petition also sought to declare as null and void a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on July 11, 2011 notifying ‘bulls’ as one of the animals prohibited from being used as performing animals.

The petitioner, G. Simeon of Palakurichi in Manapparai Taluk of Tiruchi district, claimed that there was no rationale behind including bulls along with other animals such as bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions which were already in the prohibited list. He contended that the government could not include any animal in the list as per its whims and fancies.

He also said that the legislature and not the executive authorities must be empowered to impose such prohibitions as the ban might hurt the religious sentiments of villagers in places like Tamil Nadu where failure to conduct Jallikattu during the festival seasons is considered to be a bad omen. Sports involving bulls were part and parcel of Tamil culture, he added.

Further stating that the 2011 notification had been issued solely on the basis of a representation made by a Member of Parliament to the then Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Mr. Simeon said that the Ministry did not even call for an expert report, to ascertain if the bulls were subjected to any cruelty during Jallikattu, before deciding to include them in the prohibited list.

When the case came up for hearing before Justice K.N. Basha and Justice P. Devadass on Wednesday, they directed a counsel representing the Centre to obtain instructions and adjourned the hearing to Friday. The judges passed a similar order in another writ petition challenging Madurai Collector’s refusal to grant permission for Jallikattu on January 14 at Avaniapuram near here.

In the second case, A.K. Kannan, president of Jallikattu organising committee at Avaniapuram, said that the bull sport was being conducted in his village on the day of Pongal since time immemorial. However, this year, the Collector issued a communication on December 14 and asked the organising committee to get the High Court’s nod for the conduct of the sport, he claimed.

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