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Supreme Court upholds Tamil Nadu law allowing jallikattu

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Supreme Court upholds Tamil Nadu law allowing jallikattu

Why in news:

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday (May 18) upheld the amendments made by the legislatures of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, allowing bull-taming sports like jallikattu, kambala, and bullock-cart races.
  • On January 7, 2016, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change prohibiting the “exhibition or training of bulls as performing animals”.
  • However, an exception was carved in the notification, which specified that bulls might still be trained as performing animals at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, according to the customs and culture of different communities.
  • It was also specified that this exception is subject to conditions such as reducing the pain and suffering of bulls utilised in such sports.

What is jallikattu?

  • Jallikattu, also known as eruthazhuvuthal, is a bull-taming sport traditionally played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
  • The festival is a celebration of nature, and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, of which cattle-worship is part.
  • However, the practice of jallikattu has long been contested, with animal rights groups and the courts expressing concern over cruelty to animals and the bloody and dangerous nature of the sport that sometimes causes death and injuries to both the bulls and human participants.
  • In the present case, the petitioners challenged the Tamil Nadu amendment that allowed jallikattu, contending that since the central law prohibits cruelty to animals, there could not be an amending Act that perpetuates cruelty.
  • The plea also named states like Karnataka and Maharashtra as parties to the case, since they too have similar bull-related sports.

Under what circumstances did Tamil Nadu pass its law?

  • In 2017, Tamil Nadu amended the PCA Act to allow jallikattu in the state.
  • The amending Act sought to preserve the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu, and to ensure the survival and well-being of the native breeds of bulls.
  • This came after 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.
  • Following in the footsteps of Tamil Nadu, the Karnataka cabinet in January 2017 decided to amend the PCA Act, 1960, to pave the way for kambala, a sport involving a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person.
  • The buffaloes are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.
  • Maharashtra passed an amendment to the PCA Act, 1960, allowing “bullock cart races” involving bulls to conduct a race, “whether tied to cart with the help of wooden yoke or not (by whatever name called), with or without a cartman with a view to follow tradition and culture on such days”.
  • However, in the same year, the Bombay High Court passed an interim order restraining the Maharashtra government from giving permission for bullock-cart races.

Syllabus: Prelims + Mains; GS I – Art and Culture

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