The Supreme Court on Monday admitted a writ petition filed by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (India), challenging the regularisation of Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport, by Tamil Nadu. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar issued notice to the state government, allowing the government four weeks to respond to the said petition.
Earlier, the apex court, in its judgment in Animal Welfare Board of India vs A Nagaraja and Ors [(2014) 7 SCC 547], held the practice of Jallikattuto be in contravention of sections 3, 11 and 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 and clauses (g) and (h) of Article 51 of the Constitution, and had banned the sport.
Also, the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act of 2009, was struck down by the court as being inconsistent with the Central Act of 1960 and ultra vires the Constitution. “The Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009, is an anthropocentric legislation enacted not for the welfare of the animals, unlike Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which is an eco-centric legislation, enacted to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of the animals and to prevent unnecessary pain or suffering of the animals. The State Act basically safeguards the interest of the organisers and spectators while conducting the event of Jallikattu” was the observation of the Supreme Court.
The state Act was found to be an infringement of the Act of 1960 in so much as the former envisaged the taming of bulls by force for amusement, causing them hurt and injury and the latter is aimed at safeguarding the wellbeing of animals and permits the taming of animals only for domestic use. Also, while the Central Act makes punishable the incitement of an animal by a person solely for the purpose of entertainment, the Act of 2009 contemplated a public event involving a fight between a bull and a bull tamer. Hence, the Supreme Court had ruled that “the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009, is found repugnant to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which is a welfare legislation. Hence, it is held to be constitutionally void, being violative of Article 254(1) of the Constitution of India”.
Subsequently, Tamil Nadu had, in view of the sport of Jallikattu being an integral part of the culture and tradition of the locals in major portions of the state and deeming the continuance of the same necessary for the survival and the welfare of the native breed of bulls, brought about an amendment of the Act of 1960 to exempt the conduct of Jallikattu from the provisions thereof and reintroduce the bull as a “performing animal” under Chapter V of the Central Act. Accordingly, the Tamil Nadu government had sought to alter the said Central Act w.e.f. January 21, 2017, in so far as it applies to Tamil Nadu.
On being approached in that behalf at an earlier occasion, the top court had refused to grant an interim stay on the coming into force of the new state legislation and the rules framed thereunder, being the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017, and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017, respectively, leaving the writ petitioners to exercise the option of instituting fresh petitions so as to challenge the validity of the said Acts and Rules.
The present petitioners before the apex court annexed to the petition photographic and video evidence of the event of Jallikattu having been hosted on five occasions in different areas of Tamil Nadu in February 2017, revealing the ill-treatment of animals and the abuse inflicted on them under the garb of sports. The petitioners posed a question on the validity of the Act and Rules of 2017 on the grounds that the same violate the five fundamental freedoms for animals as recognised by the World Health Organisation of Animal Health of which India is a member. In respect of these five freedoms, being the freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; from fear and distress; from physical and thermal discomfort; from pain, injury and disease; and to express normal patterns of behaviour, the Supreme Court had, in A Nagaraja judgment, ruled, “These five freedoms are for animals like the rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country under Part III of the Constitution of India”.