Tamil Nadu

No jallikattu festival in Tamil Nadu this year

The Centre argues that jallikattu could not be compared to the bull-fights of Spain where the bulls or the humans die.  

In a clear message that animals cannot be bullied into pain and suffering for the sake of custom and tradition in the 21st century, the Supreme Court on Monday stayed a January 7, 2016 notification issued by the Centre allowing Jallikattu despite a 2014 apex court ban on the sport as “inherently cruel”.

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N.V. Ramana refused to budge despite impassioned arguments from the Centre and Tamil Nadu government that a festival intrinsic to the culture and tradition of a State cannot be prohibited, especially when the 2016 notification has put in place several safeguards to regulate Jallikattu and prevent the cruel treatment of the animals.

“What is the necessity of such a festival (Jallikattu)... there was no festival for four years,” Justice Misra shot back, referring to an earlier notification issued by the Centre on July 11, 2011 which prohibited Jallikattu and exempted bulls as a 'performing animal'. This notification was upheld by the apex court on May 7, 2014.

“The 2011 notification was in consonance with the fundamental duties of the State and concept of compassion enshrined in the Constitution. The 2014 judgment covers the rights of animals under Constitution, tradition, religion and ethology,” Justice Misra orally observed.

Centre defends new notification

Ordering interim stay, the Bench issued notice to the Centre and Tamil Nadu government to respond to a batch of petitions led by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) against the 2016 notification. Some of them have even sought contempt of court action against the Centre.

The court has given them time for four weeks to file their replies, well past the dates of Pongal festival due to start in a couple of days.



Cruel treatment of bulls can't be a matter for human festivity in the 21st century. — Aryama Sundaram, AWBI counsel



The day began with a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur referring the battery of petitions to Justice Misra's Bench. This was after Justice R. Banumathi, a puisne judge on the Chief Justice's Bench, recused from hearing the case.

It was Justice Banumathi, as a Single Judge on Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, who first banned Jallikattu. A decision set aside by the High Court's Division Bench but was redeemed by the Supreme Court in 2014 by concluding that the bull-taming sport inflicted inconceivable cruelty on the animals.

Justice Misra stopped hearing the routine matters listed before him by around 12.30 p.m. and called the specially listed Jallikattu case for hearing before a crowded court.

The session opened with senior advocate Aryama Sundaram for AWBI submitting that bulls can never be performing animals.

“How can a notification override a judgment which says that jallikattu is a clear violation of Section 3 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Cruel treatment of bulls cannot be a matter for human festivity, especially in the 21st century,” Mr. Sundaram contended.

When asked to respond to this, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi for the Centre said that it was true that bulls were tortured prior to the 2014 Supreme Court ban.

“But the 2014 judgment was talking about what was happening then. The Supreme Court was then dealing with jallikattu when bulls were tortured and ran around in a frenzy like mad animals. Now look at our new notification... It protects the animals from cruelty, has prescribed safeguards... Also remember, My Lords, that it was us, and not this court, who stopped the cruelty shown to bulls for the first time in 2011 with our notification,” Mr. Rohatgi said.

Mr. Rohatgi argued that Jallikattu cannot be compared to the bull-fights of Spain “where either the bulls or the man dies”.

“In Jallikattu, if anyone dies, it is always the man and never the bull. Certain species of bulls are trained, fed, nourished for Jallikattu alone. Certain breeds are meant to do certain things. If they don't, they will die. Men tame the bulls bare-chested, bare-handed. We have with this notification tried to create a balance between animal rights and tradition and culture,” Mr. Rohatgi argued.

As a concluding argument, Mr. Rohatgi, on a personal note, said: “I have never seen Jallikattu. But tomorrow you tell me to stop bursting crackers, using lights for Diwali, I will not be able to bear it”.

Tamil Nadu counsel and senior counsel L. Nageshwar Rao submitted that the sport has been in vogue for centuries and a prohibition would cause a dent in the Tamil culture.

“Do not stop the festival. A stay will interfere with the right to practice religion and customs,” senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, also for Tamil Nadu, said.

But the words of senior advocate K.K.Venugopal, for petitioner Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, finally prevailed.

“You see, Your Lordships, the bull is a very placid domestic animal. Left alone in the Jallikattu arena, they will walk from one end to the other looking for someone to give it a banana,” Mr. Venugopal said.





A clear message

  • The Supreme Court has given the Centre and Tamil Nadu four weeks to file their replies on a batch of petitions against the popular practice of bull-taming in the state.
  • Fervent plea: A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N.V.Ramana refused to budge despite impassioned arguments from the Centre and Tamil Nadu that a festival intrinsic to the culture and tradition of a State cannot be prohibited.
  • 2011 order: An earlier notification of the Centre on Juy 11, 2011 prohibited Jallikattu and exempted bulls as a 'performing animal'. This notification was upheld by the Supreme Court on May 7, 2014.
  • TN's Line: The Sport has been in vogue for centuries and a prohibition would dent Tamil culture, the State counsel said.




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