ASKING WHETHER traditional events such as Jallikattu and other bull-taming sports in various states are a cultural right, and enjoy protection under Article 29(1) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order on a batch of pleas challenging the Tamil Nadu law that allows Jallikattu, as also bullock cart racing in Maharashtra
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice R F Nariman said the matter raises very important questions that need to be answered by a larger bench. Article 29(1) says that “any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”. The CJI observed, “Article 29(1) has not been looked at from this angle. Whether a state has a cultural right and it has a protection under the Article or not..This interpretation has far reaching effect”.
“So far nobody has plumbed into the depths of Article 29(1),”added Justice Nariman.
The CJI said the petitions raised three important questions. First, whether it can be a cultural right — and whether the Constitution recognises such cultural rights.
Second, whether the state legislature has the competence to make them. “This,” the bench said, “will flow from the list (State list and Concurrent list). The list says preservation. Whether it subserves the aspect of prevention?”
And third, whether it was in consonance with the basic tenet of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have amended the Act and allowed Jallikattu and bullock cart-racing, respectively, in their states. The state laws have been challenged in the Supreme Court.
The court also said that it will separately hear pleas challenging the Karnataka ordinance allowing Kambala (buffalo racing) in the state and issued a notice on the petitions filed by parties, including PETA, and fixed them for hearing after six weeks. The bench said it wants to “put an end to the controversy” in view of the fact that Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have asserted that the laws were enacted to protect cultural rights of a section of society.
PETA has challenged the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill, 2017.