The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to grant permission to Maharashtra government to give approval to conduct bullock cart races anywhere in the state adding that the stay would continue even if the government notified rules to regulate such races. According to the court, allowing such a race would amount to “cruelty”, as the body structure of bullocks was not made to run.
Citing the Supreme Court’s 2014 order on Jallikattu, a bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and N M Jamdar said since bulls were not anatomically designed to be used as performing animals, making them participate in a race will inherently amount to “cruelty”.
“At this stage, we are prima facie of the opinion that the proposed rules by the government may not remove observations of the Supreme Court since the lordship opined that bullocks may not be performing animals and are not anatomically designed for this purpose,” said the court pointing out that according to the apex court, forcing bullocks to perform would lead to pain and suffering.
“The difference between bullocks and horses, which can participate in races, was also pointed out by the Supreme Court,” the bench added. Senior counsel, Aspi Chenoy, representing the state government, informed the court that it had made draft rules, known as the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (conduct of bullock cart race) Rules, 2017, for organising the races in a proper manner and eliminating the suffering or pain during the race.
“The bullocks used for racing are especially bred for this purpose and cannot be used for agriculture purposes,” he said. “According to the draft rules, there will be no cruelty and the rules will be enforceable by ensuring the presence of a government official at the location of the race. The entire race will also be videographed,” he added. Chenoy said the state wanted to proceed to notify the draft rules, which included limiting such races to one kilometre and not using any whip or stick to hit the animal.
The Chief Justice, however, said having the race would itself lead to cruelty. “If nothing is used (like a whip or stick) then how can you train them to run?” questioned the Chief Justice. The bench said: “Can law say it can run. Can it change the anatomy of the animal and make it a performing animal? No matter what safeguards you implement, the fact that bulls are different from performing animals such as horses, dogs, or parrots, they will be subjected to cruelty if used as performing animals.”
The court, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Pune resident Ajay Marathe, said as the state government has not yet drafted any rule regarding the races, it cannot allow the races. Following the petition, on August 16 this year, the court had passed an interim order restraining the Maharashtra government from giving permissions for bullock cart races anywhere in the state.
At the time, the state had told the court that it will soon amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to include rules ensuring that no animals are subject to cruelty, in terms of the apprehensions expressed by the apex court in its 2014 Jallikattu order.
On Wednesday, the court said it was not satisfied that the rules took care of the observations made in the apex court orders. While disposing of the petition, it suggested that the state approach the apex court for relief. “If SC thinks your amended rules will prevent cruelty to bulls, let it allow your prayers,” the bench said.