Defending Jallikattu in the Name of Tradition Is Like Backing Sati

Supporting Jallikattu is similar to justifying illegal acts like Sati, writes AWBI member Anjali Sharma.

5 min read

PETA activists stage a demonstration against Jallikattu in New Delhi, on  26 October, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Jallikattu – to be or not to be, is the debate that’s been raging across Tamil Nadu of course, and in fact the rest of the country too. ‘Culture’, ‘tradition’, ‘Tamil pride’, ‘devious Western plan’, ‘preservation of native breeds’, and ‘ordinance’, are the words and terms being tossed up with regularity.

Possible scapegoats and villains among politicians and animal welfare organisations are sought to be targeted. In all this frenzy, one wonders, have the passionate proponents of Jallikattu bothered to read the Supreme Court judgement and orders, and trace how the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India came to declare Jallikattu, bullock cart races, and similar events inherently cruel and illegal?

Also Read: Jallikattu Doesn’t Violate Individual Rights, Banning It Does

Do they know that none less than the apex court of our country has, at the conclusion of a court case that spanned several years, held these events as illegal and violative of the Indian law and our Constitution?

The court considered every aspect and heard all stakeholders including bull owners, Jallikattu organisers, their associations, the state of Tamil Nadu, the Central Government, the Animal Welfare Board of India, other animal welfare organisations, and other petitioners and respondents.

For anybody who wishes to be better informed, they need to just read through the stupendous judgement passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2014, in the case titled “Animal Welfare Board of India Versus A Nagaraja and Others”.

Also Read: Jallikattu Row: Customs Greater Than an Animal’s Right to Live?

Defending Jallikattu in the Name of Tradition Is Like Backing Sati

Court’s Logic

Essentially, through this judgement, the Supreme Court of India held that all the animals are not anatomically designed to be performing animals, and to run. Bulls are basically ‘Draught and Pack’ animals used for farming and agriculture, ploughing, transportation, pulling heavy loads, etc. They have a large abdomen and thorax, and their bodies are barrel-shaped, which limits their ability to run. To get them to run they have to be goaded, unlike the horses that enjoy running.

Only if they are fearful do they flee; and this is done, as revealed by the observers appointed by the Hon’ble Court, through adopting cruel, unlawful means at Jallikattu events such as prodding and hurting them with sharp objects, twisting and sometimes breaking their tails, inserting chilly powder into their bodily apertures, administering other harmful substances, etc. The Indian law, i.e. the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the rules framed thereunder, DO NOT permit the same.

What is also interesting is that the Supreme Court had first tried to regulate Jallikattu by prescribing elaborate safeguards.

However, it became apparent in a couple of years that even the safeguards prescribed by the apex court were not being followed. The court also struck down the law passed by the state, i.e. the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, as unconstitutional. In a nutshell, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the Indian law does not allow human beings to put animals through unnecessary pain and suffering for entertainment, or sport, or even under the guise of culture and tradition.

That if there is a law which declares any act or omission as illegal, the law prevails over alleged culture and tradition. Had that not been the case, reprehensible practices such as Sati, child marriage, etc., would also have been prevalent and widespread in this day and age.

Also Read: Life as a Jallikattu Champ: A Graphic Novel on a Tradition at Risk

Defending Jallikattu in the Name of Tradition Is Like Backing Sati

Overreach by the Executive

The state of Tamil Nadu and some other parties had filed review petitions, seeking that the Hon’ble Court review its judgement passed in May 2014. After a full hearing, the Supreme Court dismissed the review petitions on 16 November 2016. In all the court hearings, it has been oft repeated that if Jallikattu dies out, the bulls will be sent to slaughter houses. The Hon’ble Judges have invariably expressed the view that if the bull owners love them as family members, which is what they profess they do, they should find alternate lawful uses for the bulls.

What is currently subjudice and reserved for judgement by the Supreme Court, are the petitions that had been filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India and other parties challenging a notification issued by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change on 7 January 2016, permitting the use of bulls, bullocks, etc. in events such as Jallikattu, bullock cart racing and other similar events.

The challenge was principally on the ground that the government was trying to overrule and overreach the judgement passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case titled “Animal Welfare Board of India Versus A. Nagaraja and Others” in May 2014, which it could not do. After a detailed hearing, the Hon’ble Bench passed a stay order on 12 January 2016, staying the operation of the government’s notification.

Also Watch: Must Jallikattu Fall Prey to Animal Rights Vs Heritage Politics?

All Eyes on the Top Court

These petitions against the government’s notification of 7 January 2016 permitting Jallikattu and similar events have now been finally argued in December 2016. They are reserved for judgement. The state of Tamil Nadu had urged the Central Government to promulgate an ordinance in the meantime, permitting Jallikattu. The same did not happen because the matter is yet pending the Supreme Court’s consideration, and in any event, an ordinance cannot be promulgated for reasons of political expediency.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has already held vide its judgement pronounced in May 2014 – Jallikattu is ‘not to be’, so to say. What remains to be seen is whether the Hon’ble Court will uphold or strike down the government’s notification issued in January 2016, permitting the use of bulls and bullocks in such events.

(The writer is Advocate, Member and Legal Adviser, Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and has appeared in the court in the Jallikattu case. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Harmless Sport? People May Need Jallikattu, but the Bulls Don’t

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