Questioning the “necessity of such festivals”, the Supreme Court Tuesday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from conducting its traditional bull-taming sport Jallikattu, and stayed the Centre’s notification lifting the ban on it.
“What is the necessity of such festivals… like Jallikattu? There was no festival for four years… as an interim measure, we direct that there shall be stay of notification dated January 7, 2016 issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, until further orders,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana said.
Agreeing with animal rights groups on the necessity to issue an urgent order, the court imposed the interim stay until March 15 which, apart from Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, will also prohibit bullock cart races in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat during this period.
I urge PM Modi to promulgate an Ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of #Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu immediately: DMK chief M Karunanidhi
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 12, 2016
The bench, citing points of law raised in a clutch of appeals against the January 7 notification, issued notices to Centre, Tamil Nadu and other states, seeking their replies in four weeks. It turned down the submission by the counsel for the Tamil Nadu government that prohibition on Jallikattu “will be creating a dent in culture”.
— Arun Janardhanan (@arunjei) January 12, 2016
In Tamil Nadu, protests erupted in villages near Madurai after the Supreme Court stayed the Centre’s notification. Roads connecting Alanganallur and Palamedu were blocked by protesters.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider bringing an ordinance to allow Jallikattu during the Pongal harvest festival.
“Considering the urgency of the issue, I strongly reiterate my earlier request to the Government of India to promulgate an ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of Jallikattu. On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, I urge you to take immediate action,” she stated in her letter.
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Reminding the Prime Minister that the Pongal festival begins on January 14, Jayalalithaa said it is very important that the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu be respected since they have deep attachment to the conduct of Jallikattu.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi also demanded that the Centre take necessary steps to facilitate the event.
With its order Tuesday, the Supreme Court has revived its ban on Jallikattu, first imposed in May 2014 when it held that use of bulls in such events severely harmed animals and constituted an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Representing the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi sought to defend the notification by arguing that the apex court had not totally prohibited the participation of bulls in Jallikattu but only desired that care is taken so that bulls are not treated with cruelty.
He also raised questions over the maintainability of the petitions by animal rights groups. But the bench said it would not entertain such an argument at this stage since such petitions had already been entertained in the past.
“We perceive the (Animal Welfare) Board and others have really not approached the court for protection of their fundamental rights, but the rights of animals in the constitutional and statutory framework,” the bench said.
While the Attorney General argued that Jallikattu is not like bull fighting in Spain and that conditions have been provided in the notification so that cruelty to participating animals is avoided, the bench noted that the real issue should be at what stage can it be made sure that harm to animals is completely avoided.
The interim order has been issued on a batch of petitions moved by the Animal Welfare Board of India, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), People For Animals and other animal rights groups.
Besides the applications to stay the Centre’s January 7 notification, two contempt petitions have also been filed, contending that the notification is in violation of the Supreme Court’s 2014 order. These groups argued that Jallikattu is torturous and cruel to animals and all such sport should be completely banned.