The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Tamil Nadu government why jallikattu, a bull-taming sport, should not be banned in the State.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose, hearing a batch of petitions, said: “You [the State] cannot conduct jallikattu without inflicting pain and suffering on the bulls. Various countries have banned it. Why can’t we also ban it?”

Justice Radhakrishan told senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, “In your State, bulls are worshipped. How can you allow the animals to be subjected to pain and suffering? It [jallikattu] is only for the enjoyment of human beings at the cost of sufferings of animals.”

Counsel justified the sport, conducted from January to May, on the ground that it had historical and cultural relevance, and it was being regulated under a law.

Justice Radhakrishnan said: “Several studies have been conducted on animal behaviour, and the reports have showed that there is no way of conducting jallikattu without causing pain and sufferings to the animals. Just like human beings, animals also have rights to be protected. You push the animals into the vadivasal [a narrow passage through which bulls squeeze into the arena], which is nothing but a torture chamber.”

The judge said: “According to technical studies, animals don’t go voluntarily into the arena. You are pushing the bulls into the arena.”

Mr. Dwivedi said: “Sprinkling of chilli powder and twisting of the tails of the bulls can be banned, but the sport itself could not be banned for various reasons. It could be regulated.”

The judge said: “You [the State] are still in the 10th century. Those days have gone. Can you give an assurance that jallikattu will be conducted without inflicting pain on the animal? We can’t brush aside the report of the Animal Welfare Board detailing several deaths of participants and injuries caused to spectators.”

When counsel said the report was exaggerated, the judge shot back: “It is difficult to believe that the State is not alive to the happenings.”

The arguments will continue on April 22.

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