Why import a Roman-type gladiator sport, asks SC

The Bench said even if argument was that Jallikattu was a "sport," it was a "cruel" sport and cruelty to animals was prohibited by the law.

Updated - December 02, 2016 02:29 pm IST

Published - November 09, 2016 08:09 pm IST - New Delhi

Asking why bulls should be made to suffer for the entertainment of humans, the Supreme Court has pulled up the Centre for trying to “import a Roman-type gladiator sport” despite a judgment clearly banning Jallikattu as a cruelty and crime to animals.

“Can bulls be contemplated for entertainment of human mind? Bulls are supposed to rest, why should they race,” a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Nariman tested the legality of the Centre’s January 7 notification permitting Jallikattu.

‘Cruel sport’

The Bench said even if argument was that Jallikattu was a “sport,” it was a “cruel” sport and cruelty to animals was prohibited by the law.

When senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, for Tamil Nadu, said when humans ran marathons, why could not bulls be part of a sport.

“Humans have free will, bulls are forced into it,” Justice Misra replied.

The court called for compassion to animals, saying it was our constitutional obligation, while posting the matter for further hearing on November 16.

In defence of Jallikattu, the Tamil Nadu government had highlighted how there was nothing wrong in farmers practising Jallikattu in the semi-arid regions of the State if the Spanish Senate could in 2013 declare the “far more cruel” sport of bull-fighting a cultural heritage.

The Supreme Court had on January 12 stayed the January 7 notification on a challenge from NGOs like Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India and Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations.

The notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests had allowed the exhibition and use of bulls as performing animals for Jallikattu and bullock-cart races despite an express ban from the apex court in a judgment in 2014.

In its turn, the NDA government too had invoked tales from the Mahabharata to urge the Supreme Court to lift its ban on the “ancient sport” of Jallikattu, arguing that it was good for maintaining bio-diversity.

The Ministry claimed that Jallikattu “encourages breeding of indigenous bulls.”

The Centre had toed Tamil Nadu’s line that Jallikattu was not mere organised entertainment but an “age-old tradition practised for time immemorial.”

“You say that Jallikattu is an age-old tradition, so was child marriage until it was declared a crime,” Justice Misra had retorted then.

The court had said it was not here to consider the nuances of practices and tradition but to look into the constitutionality of the January 7 notification.

The 2014 Supreme Court judgment had termed Jallikattu “inherently cruel” and specifically held that no regulations or guidelines should be allowed to dilute or defeat the spirit of a welfare legislation like Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 and constitutional principles. If so, the Supreme Court should strike them down without hesitation.

The judgment had already laid down that a court’s duty under the doctrine of parents patriae was to take care of the rights of animals, since they were unable to take care of themselves as against humans.

The judgment had classified the bull as a draught animal not meant for running but sedate walking under the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965.

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