As Tamil Nadu witnesses a popular upsurge in favour of jallikattu, the State government is under pressure to find legal means to ensure that the traditional event banned by the Supreme Court is revived soon.
The Centre’s January 7, 2016, notification — introducing some regulations and exempting it from statutory restrictions on the use of bulls as performing animals — was stayed by the Supreme Court. The final verdict is yet to be pronounced. Against this backdrop, what are the legal options that the State and Central governments could explore, and what is the flip side of these options?
Option 1: It is quite apparent that only an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) is the way out. The most immediate way to do this is for the Centre to promulgate an ordinance incorporating the regulatory features of its earlier executive notification in the parent law itself. It may also remove ‘bulls’ from the list of animals that cannot be used in performances.
Drawback: The Supreme Court may take a dim view of the ordinance as an attempt to circumvent its 2014 verdict holding that the conduct of jallikattu itself amounts to cruelty as defined in the PCA. The Centre, which drew the court’s wrath last year itself when the notification was challenged, may be reluctant to take such a step.
Option 2: The State may request the Union government to permit it to promulgate an ordinance to introduce a Tamil Nadu-specific amendment to the PCA. As ‘prevention of cruelty to animals’ falls under Entry 17 of the Concurrent List, the State Assembly may amend the central law, subject to the President’s assent. Under Article 213 of the Constitution, the State Governor may promulgate an ordinance on a subject in the Central list with the prior assent of the President. This amendment may seek to exempt jallikattu as an event based on tradition and custom, subject to regulation, from the PCA’s purview.
Drawback: The Union government will have to advise the President to grant assent, and therefore, in terms of how it would be viewed by the court, there is no difference between helping TN issue an ordinance and promulgating the ordinance on its own. The court may also view the amendment as contrary to the main objectives of the PCA.
Option 3: The State may await the Supreme Court’s verdict on the validity of the January 2016 notification and give an assurance to the agitators that it would thereafter, in the event of an adverse order, enact a State amendment in the Assembly and refer it to the Centre for the President’s assent.
Drawback: This option would mean a politically costly delay and may not find favour with the protesters.