In a landmark decision, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the amendments made by the state of Tamil Nadu to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), thereby permitting the traditional bovine sport of Jallikattu. The judgment, delivered by Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and CT Ravikumar, stated that the amendments were intended to reduce the pain and suffering of bovines involved in the sport and to allow its continuation.
The Court emphasized that there was no flaw in the state’s action and recognized Jallikattu as a bovine sport, allowing participation in accordance with the rules. The judgment clarified that the amendments were not related to Article 48 of the constitution, which pertains to the protection and improvement of animal breeds, but rather fell under Entry 17, List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, which deals with state legislations on animals. Although there may be incidental impacts on certain types of bulls affecting agricultural activity, the court held that the amendments were primarily aimed at regulating Jallikattu.
Moreover, the Supreme Court upheld similar laws allowing Kambala (a traditional buffalo race) and bull cart racing in the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, respectively. The Court concluded that these laws did not violate Articles 51A(g) and 51A(h) of the Constitution, which address the protection of animal welfare, and therefore, did not infringe upon Articles 14 and 21, which guarantee the right to equality and protection of life and personal liberty.
The decision marks a significant turnaround from the Supreme Court’s previous stance on Jallikattu. In May 2014, the court had ruled that the sport was in violation of animal rights and the PCA Act. It had also declared that Jallikattu, as it was practiced at the time, was not part of Tamil Nadu’s cultural or traditional heritage, leading to the striking down of the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act of 2009, which regulated the practice.
Following the 2014 ruling, in January 2016, the Central government issued a notification exempting Jallikattu and bullock cart races from the scope of the PCA Act. However, this notification was challenged in the Supreme Court. Now, with the recent judgment, the Court has validated the amendments made by Tamil Nadu, effectively granting legal recognition to Jallikattu.
The Court’s ruling has garnered mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Animal rights activists argue that Jallikattu still involves cruelty towards animals and that the decision undermines the welfare of the bulls involved. On the other hand, proponents of the sport assert that Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamil Nadu’s cultural identity and that the amendments strike a balance between preserving tradition and ensuring animal welfare.
Moving forward, it is incumbent upon the relevant authorities, including district magistrates and competent bodies, to strictly implement the amended laws. This entails ensuring that Jallikattu and other similar traditional practices adhere to the regulations set forth in order to safeguard the well-being of animals involved.
The Supreme Court’s judgment in this matter represents a crucial development in the ongoing debate surrounding Jallikattu and related traditional sports. It remains to be seen how the implementation of the amendments and the regulation of these events will unfold, as both animal welfare and cultural preservation continue to be important considerations in this contentious issue.