SC affirms state laws allowing Jallikattu, other events involving animals

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice KM Joseph, approved of bullock or buffalo races in Maharashtra and Karnataka prohibited following a 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court citing cruelty to animals

A Supreme Court constitution bench on Thursday affirmed the state laws allowing cultural events involving animals, including the bull taming sport Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock or buffalo races in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The five-judge bench, headed by Justice KM Joseph, also approved of bullock or buffalo races in Maharashtra and Karnataka prohibited following a 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court citing cruelty to animals.

The bench, which also included justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and CT Ravikumar, said the state laws were in sync with the constitutional powers accorded to the states under List III of the Constitution.

Reading out the judgment on behalf of the bench, Justice Bose said the Tamil Nadu law allowing Jallikattu is not a colourable piece of legislation, and it does not go contrary to any other constitutional provision. The judge added that after receiving a valid presidential assent, the state law does not suffer from any other legal flaw.

“We are of the opinion that the defects pointed out in the 2014 judgment have been overcome by the State Amendment Act read with the rules made therein,” said the court, adding the rules provide adequate safeguards against inflicting cruelty to the animals and also prescribe punishments for breaching of norms.

The bench directed the district magistrates and other competent authorities to ensure strict compliance with the laws and the rules framed to protect animals from physical and mental trauma.

Upholding the Tamil Nadu law, the court said that the laws framed by Maharashtra and Karnataka are also affirmed on the same principles.

It refrained from putting its stamp of approval on a contention about whether these events deserve the protection under Article 29, which says that any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script, or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.

“Whether the Tamil Nadu amendment act is to preserve the cultural heritage of a particular state is a debatable issue which has to be concluded in the House of the people. These are not to be a part of judicial inquiry,” said the bench.

The court was ruling on legal issues involving provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act and the amendment acts in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, allowing Jallikattu and bullock-cart races.

Some of these issues related to the powers of the state government to amend a central law (PCA Act) and whether sports such as Jallikattu can be termed a part of the culture to receive constitutional protection under Article 29.

Another crucial issue involved in the matter was if the amendments carried out by the states to allow such sports violate the 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court which banned the use of bulls and bullocks in “entertainment activities” such as Jallikattu and bullock cart racing, among others.

The Tamil Nadu government brought an amendment in 2017 to modify the PCA Act to allow the use of bulls in Jallikattu under certain guidelines. The amendment received the approval of the President too.

Similar laws in Maharashtra and Karnataka introduced additional safeguards for conducting the events to bring them in line with the 2014 judgment.

The state governments argued before the court that the religious and cultural events do not violate the principles of compassion and humanism and the rules in place ensure that no cruelty is caused to the animals.

The Tamil Nadu government asserted that Jallikattu is protected under Article 29 of the Constitution and told the court that practice, which is centuries-old and symbolic of a community’s identity, can be regulated and reformed.

Petitioners including People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) challenged the state laws, questioning whether a state could be legally allowed to modify a central law like the PCA Act.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, leading the arguments on behalf of the petitioners, called the Tami Nadu law a “colourable piece of legislation,” complaining that the state used the legislative power that obligates prevention of cruelty under the law to perpetuate cruelty. During the arguments last year, Luthra pressed that state laws are destructive of the purpose of legislation like the PCA Act.

“Even if the presidential assent was given, they will have to show what materials were placed before the President...Whether the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the Nagaraj judgment (2014) were informed or not,” Luthra argued.

Before it reserved the judgment in December, the bench asked the Union government to produce the relevant files to ascertain the material considered while granting the Presidential assent.

Even as the files were adduced, solicitor general Tushar Mehta objected to the court passing any judgment on the presidential assent, arguing neither the petitioners challenged the assent orders nor would it be proper on the part of the top court to routinely sit in a judgment on the presidential assent.

Disclaimer: This Article is auto-generated from the HT news service.