New Delhi: The Supreme Court, which is hearing a challenge to a Tamil Nadu law allowing “jallikattu”, on Wednesday said it will be a “very dangerous situation” if the court made an impression based on photographs placed before it by some petitioners to depict alleged cruelty to bulls during the bull-taming sport.
“Jallikattu”, also known as “eruthazhuvuthal”, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph said it cannot hold that the provision enacted in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 by a state amendment with the assent of the President is “bad in law” because the photographs say so.
“If we go on making an impression based on the photographs, it will be a very dangerous situation for us,” observed the bench, also comprising justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar.
“Can we say, or can we record any finding based on these photographs that the legislation is bad? Can we draw any impression based on these photographs which you have showed to us?” the bench asked.
The apex court’s observation came after senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some of the petitioners, referred to news reports and photographs to argue about cruelty to the bulls in the game.
Divan also referred to media reports about deaths and injuries caused to humans as well as bulls which have taken place in several districts during jallikattu. He said contrary to the arguments advanced by Tamil Nadu, several tamers pounce on a bull in this event.
“I am pointing out extreme cruelty,” he said.
During the arguments, which will continue on Thursday, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, and several other counsel representing the intervenors advanced their submissions.
The bench asked Rohatgi about the argument advanced by the counsel for one of the petitioners about human lives being lost and injuries being caused.
“With great respect, in every field of activity, people lose their lives. You are driving on a road, you may not be driving rashly. Somebody else does something. Somebody may die. Some truck may overturn. Some building may fall. Some bridge may fall,” Rohatgi said.
The bench said, in the context of jallikattu, the government was enabling such a thing to happen.
“The state is permitting it to happen. What is more, the state is actively promoting it,” the court said.
Rohatgi retorted: “There also the state is promoting people to drive at 100 miles an hour if you go from here to Agra. They have made a road. The minister says, drive at 120 (km) an hour, it is a great road. It is the state which has done all this. At the end of the day, it is not as if that millions of people are going to be killed like a famine.” The bench also heard arguments on the challenge to the validity of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Second Amendment) Act 2017 which allowed buffalo race “Kambala” in the state.
The race, held between November and March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough and anchored by one person. They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.
It is believed to be held to propitiate the Gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.
Some of the petitioners had argued before the apex court that when the law prohibits cruelty to animals there cannot be an amending Act which perpetuates cruelty.
In its written submissions filed last month in the apex court, the Tamil Nadu government has said “jallikattu” is a religious and cultural festival that bears a “religious significance” to the people of the state and does not violate the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
The apex court is hearing arguments on a batch of petitions against the Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra laws allowing “jallikattu” and bullock-cart races.
The top court had, in its 2014 judgment, said bulls cannot be used as performing animals either for “jallikattu” events or bullock-cart races, and banned their use for these purposes across the country.
It had earlier dismissed the Tamil Nadu government’s plea seeking a review of its 2014 judgment banning the use of bulls for “jallikattu” in the state and bullock-cart races across India.
Tamil Nadu had amended the central law — The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 — and allowed “jallikattu” in the southern state.
In its written submission filed in the apex court last month, the Tamil Nadu government said “jallikattu” is not merely an act of entertainment or amusement but an event with great historic, cultural and religious value.
“Jallikattu not only preserves the cultural and traditional heritage, the cause of conservation of a native breed of cattle is also addressed by the continuous conduct of these events,” it has said.
The apex court is considering five questions referred to it by a two-judge bench of the top court in February 2018.
Referring the issue to the five-judge bench, the apex court had said the petitions challenging the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017 need to be decided by a larger bench since those involve substantial questions related to the interpretation of the Constitution.