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SC allows Maharashtra to conduct bullock cart races

"If it is a traditional sport and going all across the country except Maharashtra, it does not appeal to common sense," Justices AM Khanwilar said.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 16, 2021 2:39:05 pm
In 2017, the state government had enacted the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act to restart the bullock cart races. (Express file photo by Jasbir Malhi)

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the resumption of bullock cart races in Maharashtra in view of the amendments made by the state to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Live Law reported.

A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilar and CT Ravikumar noted that after the apex court’s ban on Jallikattu and bull races in 2014, the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had passed amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to continue practicing the tradition of such animal sports. However, a Constitution Bench of the top court is yet to determine the validity of these amendments after writ petitions were filed against them. The Court did not order an interim stay to the amendments in the meantime.

Similarly, the Court on Thursday observed that Maharashtra will be allowed to carry out the bullock cart races in line with its amendments to the Cruelty Act during the pendency of the matter before the Constitution Bench. The validity of the Maharashtra amendment will also be decided by the same Constitution Bench.

“Validity of the amended provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the rules framed thereunder by the state of Maharashtra would operate during the pendency of the writ petition, as the entire matter has been referred to the Constitution Bench including the question as to whether the similar amended Acts of the States of Tamil Nadu overcomes the defect pointed out in 2 judgements of this court,” the order read.

In 2017, the Maharashtra government had enacted the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act and laid down the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules with aim to restart the races, ensuring safety of the animals. However, the act was challenged in the Bombay High Court which upheld the ban.

On Thursday, Justices Khanwilar said, “One country, one race, we need to have uniformity and there has to be one rule. If the races are going on in other states, why should it not be allowed by Maharashtra.” He also observed, “It is a traditional sport going on for several years, judgment came — it was stopped, the amendment came — allowed in a regulated manner. If it is a traditional sport and going all across the country except Maharashtra, it does not appeal to common sense.”

“Same dispensation must apply to the provisions of the State of Maharashtra which are similar to the amendments carried out in other states,” the bench observed.

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s order, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India called it a “black mark on the nation”. It noted that bulls are included in the species prohibited from being forced to perform under a 11 July 2011 notification issued by the central government, adding that “bulls are forced to race out of being hit by whips and sticks, twisting and breaking tails, and inducing fear—all actions that violate The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.”

“PETA India will continue our efforts to bring relief to bulls suffering from cruel events. We believe when the matter is finally heard by the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, a prohibition will be reinstated on such cruelty to bulls,” the statement read.

The Constitution bench, which has been tasked to determine the validity of the amendments made by the Tamil Nadu state, will decide whether Jallikattu, can be given the status of a cultural right and be protected. It will also examine if the measures were colourable legislations and perpetuate cruelty to animals.

— with inputs from Live Law

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