Lawyer reminisces the day jallikattu was banned first

L. Shaji Chellan   | Photo Credit: MA14ADVOCATE

“March 29, 2006, is a date that I want to erase from the calendar, if I can do so. It was on that day a single judge of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court banned jallikattu for the first time and since then, I am carrying the black badge of having been a lawyer on record in that unfortunate case,” laments advocate L. Shaji Chellan.

Pointing out that he had actually filed a writ petition seeking permission for rekla (bullock cart) race at Thaniankootam in Ramanathapuram district, the lawyer claims that Justice R. Banumathi (now a Supreme Court judge) expanded the scope of the case on her own and banned rekla race, oxen race and jallikattu.

“ My client was K. Muniasamy Thevar, then vice-president of Karisalkulam panchayat. I began my arguments casually since other judges of the High Court had already allowed similar writ petitions and granted permission for rekla race in other districts. To my rude shock, Ms. Justice Banumathi took a differing view and questioned how could such races be conducted against the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” he recalls.

Mr. Chellan says the judgement was passed immediately after lunch break on the day of admission itself without notice being issued to any party.

The only judgement he could cite in his favour on that day was the one passed by another single judge of the High Court, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla (now retired after being elevated to the Supreme Court), who had granted permission for rekla race in Pillayarnatham in Thoothukudi district on August 13, 2004.

Deciding not to follow that judgement, Ms. Justice Banumathi wrote: “With due respect, I respectfully disagree with the above order. Law of the past does not fit in the present context. The Court should evolve law to suit the present need. This is all the more so when people need to be made aware of prevention of cruelty to animals and to show more concern towards the animals.”

She also recorded the submission of the then Government Advocate J. Viswanathan that the Director General of Police had issued a circular on January 15, 2006, against granting permission for rekla race since Animal Welfare Board of India had written to him citing the ban imposed by Panaji Bench of the Bombay High Court in 1996 on bull fights known as Dhirio in Goa.

“In her judgement, Ms. Justice Banumathi wrote in length about reported torture meted out to bulls during jallikattu and rekla race. My submissions on customs, tradition and the sport being connected with religious sentiments were all brushed aside,” Mr. Chellan rues.

Referring to the judge’s observation that “jallikattu is no more fun or veera vilayattu (a brave sport)” but clearly a violation of animal rights and perpetration of cruelty on hapless animals, he says: “Nowhere in the world, people dare to engage with a bull with bare hands... If jallikattu is not a veera vilayattu, then what other sport can be?”

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 1:39:28 PM |

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