Hours after the Central government requested the Supreme Court to delay its judgment on the legality of Jallikattu, citing “huge unrest” in Tamil Nadu, it approved a draft Ordinance by the state government to make an exception for bulls in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Earlier, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra that there were “immense problems” in Tamil Nadu due to the interim ban on Jallikattu and that the circumstances warranted delaying the judgment at least by a week.
“If this court pronounces the judgment in one way or another, it (judgment) would inflame passions…there is already social unrest in the state. The Centre and the state are in talks to find a way out in the matter and our request is that the court should not deliver the judgment and hold back for a while,” submitted the AG. At this, Justice Misra asked Rohatgi how many days he wanted the judgment to be delayed. “At least for a week,” replied AG. To this, the judge responded: “Okay.”
In December, the court had reserved its judgment on a clutch of petitions that challenged the central government’s notification in January 2016 allowing bulls to be used in Jallikattu. As an interim order, a bench led by Justice Misra had on January 13, 2016, stayed the Centre’s notification, due to which the apex court’s original order of 2014 banning Jallikattu is still in force.
Later in the evening, the Centre cleared the final legal hurdles in holding Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu over the weekend by approving the state’s draft Ordinance. The draft Ordinance, which will add a state-specific exception in the 1960 Act, passed through four ministries during the day — Environment, Animal Husbandry department of Agriculture Ministry, Law and finally Home — receiving consent from each within hours.
In its comments on the draft, the Environment Ministry, which administers the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, is learnt to have taken the view that Jallikattu had to be viewed in its cultural context, and that a decision on banning the sport could not be purely legal in nature. The final clearance of the Ordinance by the Home Ministry came just a day after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to find a legal solution to the issue.
Panneerselvam postponed his return to Chennai on Thursday and stayed put in the capital till Friday morning as his government prepared the draft Ordinance and handed it to the Centre. Top Tamil Nadu officials made the rounds of different ministries to hold consultations and decide the final language of the Ordinance that will put bulls on the list of performing animals in the state. A group of MPs from the state, led by Lok Sabha deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, also met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave to press for the Ordinance.