But refuses to stay Centre’s notification prohibiting use of bulls as ‘performing animals’

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday refused to stay the operation of a notification issued by the Centre on July 11 prohibiting the use of bulls as ‘performing animals.' Yet, it permitted the conduct of jallikattu in eight places in Madurai, Tiruchi and Sivaganga districts between January 15 and 29.

Passing interim orders in a batch of public interest litigation petitions filed both in favour as well as against the event, a Division Bench comprising Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice R. Karuppiah said they were inclined to permit the sport during this Pongal season alone in view of its regulated conduct in the last two years and for want of a counter affidavit by the Centre.

The Bench ordered that the events should be conducted strictly in compliance with a series of interim orders passed by the Supreme Court on the issue between January 2008 and March 2011, the safeguards provided under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 and additional safety measures promised to be undertaken during the hearing of the present batch of cases.

“In all fairness, the State should see that the safety and security of bull tamers, spectators and bulls were protected. The festival is not only for us but also for the four-legged creatures. Take care and make it an enjoyable event. Ensure that everything goes well,” Ms. Justice Venkataraman said and directed the State government to file a compliance report by January 30.

She said the compliance report would form the basis for the court to reconsider the issue of permitting jallikattu in future. Further, the State government was ordered to provide a checklist to the officials concerned. The additional safeguard ordered in the present case was setting up of bull yards at the end of the bull taming area in order to prevent the animals from returning to the track.

Director of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services R. Palaniswamy said jallikattu would be conducted at Avaniapuram, Palamedu and Alanganallur in Madurai district; Periyasuriyur, Palakurichi and Karungulam in Tiruchi district and Siravayal and Kandipatti in Sivaganga district. Coconut fibre and saw dust would be strewn on the surface in Avaniapuram where the sport was conducted by cordoning off a main road.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) M. Ravindran said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests would require at least two week to file its counter affidavit as it had to be vetted by the Law Ministry. However, he submitted on oral instructions that the July 11 notification was primarily meant to ban animal race conducted in Maharashtra and Gujarat and not Tamil Nadu's Jallikattu.

But the judges asked the ASG to put his submissions in writing and submit it by January 30 when the court would decide the larger question of the Centre's notification having the effect of nullifying the State enactment on regulating jallikattu. S. Guru Krishnakumar, Additional Advocate General, representing the State government in the Supreme Court, argued the case on behalf of the State.

He contended that the Centre's notification would apply only to animals registered under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and not the jallikattu bulls which were registered only as per Supreme Court orders in a different format than what was prescribed under the PCA Act. He also contended that it was the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and not the District Collectors who were registering the bulls.

“Flouting court orders”

Countering the arguments, senior counsel R. Yashod Vardhan, appearing on behalf of an individual animal lover, read out the Supreme Court order and said that it categorically stated that only the Collectors concerned must register the bulls as per the PCA Act. “If these bulls were not being registered as per the apex court orders, then it amounts to flouting the court orders,” he added.

Later, when Mr. Krishnakumar argued that the AWBI, which had filed a writ petition in favour of the Centre's notification, ought to have moved the Supreme Court which was already seized of a batch of cases on the issue and not the High Court, Ms. Justice Venkataraman intervened and said: “The same would apply to you (State government) too. You could have also challenged the notification.”

The AAG was joined by Advocate General A. Navaneethakrishnan who flew down from Chennai in the evening when the judges were dictating their orders.

A huge number of villagers and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam cadres burst crackers outside the High Court campus immediately after the court granted permission for the sport.