The Bombay High Court on Wednesday prohibited the state from granting any permission allowing bullock cart racing before framing rules as envisaged in the new amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
A bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice NM Jamdar was hearing a PIL filed by Ajay Marathe, who sought a stay on a race that was to take place in his district in Pune on Thursday, as he described the practice of bullock cart racing as cruel.
It was also argued on behalf of the petitioners that government has the authority to amend the principal Act, but not to insert provisions that are contrary to the Act itself as the races are cruel towards animals.
In 2014, bullock cart races were banned by the high court on grounds of violation of the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals Act.
After Tamil Nadu’s decision to bring in a law to regulate jalikattu, the state government of Maharashtra was under a lot of political pressure to start the bullock cart races in the name of preserving the culture and tradition of the state.
The amendment that was passed by Maharashtra’s Legislative Assembly received Presidential Assent this year. It incorporates provisions to ensure safety of animals, for example if any person inflicts cruelty on the animals, he will be punished with a fine that can go up to Rs. 5 lakh or may be imprisoned for 3 years.
Also, permission to organise a bullock cart race was to be obtained from the Collector’s office. After the race would end, the Collector was entrusted with the responsibility for inspecting whether the animals involved in the race had been injured in any way.
The said amendment also envisages rules that would govern such races. Government pleader AB Vagyani submitted that although the draft rules framed under the amended Act were ready, those were yet to come into force as the same has been uploaded on the government’s website and suggestions from the public is awaited.
The court said no permission can be granted until the said rules are framed and gave the state two weeks’ time to file an affidavit-in-reply.