Prevention of cruelty is not an "absolute idea". The Constitution commands us to be compassionate to all living creatures, but it should have a balance, the Supreme Court observed while hearing the Jallikattu case on Thursday.
"Suppose a mosquito is about to land on you and take what it wants. Mosquito is also an animal. We were wondering whether we should just stand there worried or do what we need to do to protect ourselves," Justice K. M. Joseph, heading a Constitution Bench, asked on a lighter note during the hearing.
The Bench also referred to the killing of stray dogs, saying it extinguished the life of an animal.
The judge said animals should be treated as friends, brothers and they had the same rights as human beings. So much so that cruelty in sports, entertainment was prohibited.
"But take the case of boxing. There is so much pain caused. There is even death. At least humans in these cases can be treated on par with animals… What do you say to that," Justice Joseph asked senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for petitioners challenging the Tamil Nadu law allowing Jallikattu in the State.
"Choice and lack of choice. You enter a sport willingly. The possibility of injury is high. But you have taken a conscious decision to participate anyway. That is an informed choice. That sets us apart from the animals," Mr. Luthra responded.
"Animals don't make a choice, so can they have liberty," Justice Joseph asked.
"Liberty is inherent in every living being, whether it be in any form of life… That is recognised by the Constitution," Mr. Luthra said, urging the court to defer the debate on mosquitoes for the time being.