January 29, 2019 9:39:36 am
Five years after a Supreme Court ban forced the Kila Raipur rural sports organisers to drop bullock cart races from the list of events at the annual gala, the Punjab government is now mulling to bring in a legislation to circumvent the judgment.
It is likely to bring in a law similar to one enacted by the Tamil Nadu government in 2017 legalising jallikattu, the bull-taming festival, three years after the apex court held the festival illegal.
Punjab is mulling denotifying “bullock” from the list of performing animals to ensure that the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act do not apply to the draught animal. This could allow the bullock cart races in the “Rural Olympics”, held at Kila Raipur village in Ludhiana every year.
The matter is likely to come up for discussion in the Punjab Cabinet meet scheduled on Tuesday. Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi will be taking the issue to the Cabinet for a discussion, sources familiar with the matter said.
Sodhi told the Indian Express that there was a huge demand from various quarters for restarting the bullock cart races. “The matter is being discussed at the highest level of the government. There have been no reports of any cruelty to the ‘athlete-bullocks’ and they are rather pampered by the owners. They are fed on desi ghee and almonds and are looked after like children. We are finding a way on how we could allow the races. I am personally considering the public demand,” Sodhi said.
The government is mulling to hold the budget session from February 12 to 22 and it is likely that it may table a bill in the Assembly. But since the Kila Raipur sports are being organised from February 2, the Cabinet is likely to discuss how the races could be allowed this time. An ordinance is unlikely as the Vidhan Sabha session is just a fortnight away. Also, the ordinance as well as the bill would require an assent from the Governor. Since there is a precedent that the Tamil Nadu ordinance was cleared by the Centre and the legislation granted assent by the President, the state government hopes the assent from the Governor would not take much time.
The Tamil Nadu government had first promulgated an ordinance in 2017 to amend the 57-year-old Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – the law that the apex court had cited to ban jallikattu in 2014.
The Tamil Nadu Assembly then unanimously passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017, which was later cleared by the President of India.
The Grewal Sports Association, the organisers of the sports, are willing to postpone the sports. “The weather is very cold. It would be difficult to host so many sportspersons in Kila Raipur village in this weather. We could postpone them. Also, we want the bullock races to return to rural Olympics. Otherwise it is like a body without a soul,” said Jagbir Singh Grewal, an office bearer.
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