The NDA government invoked tales from the Mahabharata to urge the Supreme Court to lift its ban on the “ancient sport” of jallikattu, arguing that the bull-taming sport, banned since 2014 by the apex court for cruelty, is good for maintaining bio-diversity.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) justified its January 7, 2016 notification issued to circumvent the apex court ban by allowing the exhibition and use of bulls for jallikattu and bullock-cart races, saying that jallikattu “encourages breeding of indigenous bulls.”
The apex court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by various NGOs like Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, challenging the MoEF notification of January 7.
The Supreme Court had stayed the notification on January 12.
“You say that jallikattu is an age-old tradition, so was child marriage until it was declared a crime,” a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F. Nariman observed on Tuesday.
The court said its job was to look into the constitutionality of the January 7 notification.
When senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing Tamil Nadu, wanted the case to be referred to a larger Bench, the court said the parties must prove that the two-judge Bench judgment banning jallikattu in 2014 was bad in law.
The MoEF drew on the ancient epic of Mahabharata to justify bringing bulls back into the ring.
“The epic cites Lord Krishna controlling a violent bull in the atrium of King Kamsa’s palace. In another chapter, Lord Krishna tames seven bulls to marry Princess Naganajiti, daughter of King Nagnajit of the Kosala kingdom which later prospered into a tradition in the Velir kingdom of Tamil Nadu,” the MoEF said in an affidavit placed before the Bench.
Unlike the Romans who viewed animals as “fierce creatures” fit to be killed or like the Greeks, who saw them as “symbols of power”, ancient India saw bulls as “friendly, loyal and graceful.”
The MoEF said its notification had put into place enough safeguards to ensure that bulls are not tortured, thus making the 2014 ban redundant. The ban, it said, had affected the fundamental right to life and livelihood of “millions” in the southern parts of India. The MoEF said the NGOs could not have approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution as this case did not deal with the fundamental rights of human beings but involved the rights of animals.
Earlier in March, Tamil Nadu had claimed that ‘Jalli’ was the name of a “Yadav brave man with history dating back to the period of Lord Krishna.”
The State’s affidavit had found links from both ancient Tamil literature and Sangam era “and beyond.”
Tamil Nadu had asked why Jallikattu was illegal when bull-fighting had officially been accepted as part of the cultural heritage in other countries.