Supreme Court upholds Tamil Nadu Jalikattu Law

Context: A five judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the amendments made by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act of 1960. These amendments allowed the bull taming sports like Jallikattu, Kambala and bullock cart races.   

What is Jallikattu?

Jallikattu is a traditional bull-taming sport that is primarily practiced in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The word “Jallikattu” is derived from the Tamil words “Jalli” (meaning gold or silver coins) and “Kattu” (meaning a bundle). The sport involves the running of bulls in an open field, and participants attempt to grab the bull’s hump and hold on to it for a certain distance or time to win prizes, which are usually tied to the bull’s horns.

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What is the controversy surrounding Jallikattu?

  • Controversy surrounding Jallikattu stems from concerns related to animal welfare and the treatment of the bulls involved.
  • Animal rights activists argue that the sport inflicts unnecessary harm and cruelty on the bulls.
  • They claim that the bulls are often subjected to physical abuse, including being prodded, poked, and harassed by the participants, which can lead to injuries and distress.
  • Activists also highlight instances where the bulls are reportedly force-fed alcohol or chili powder to agitate them before the event.

How the Supreme Court has seen this case so far?

  • In 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned Jallikattu, citing animal welfare concerns. The court observed that the bulls used in the sport are often subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering.
  • The ban sparked protests in Tamil Nadu, where Jallikattu is deeply rooted in the cultural and social fabric. Supporters of Jallikattu argue that it is an integral part of Tamil tradition and should be preserved as a cultural heritage.
  • They claim that proper regulations and safeguards can be implemented to ensure the welfare of the animals without completely banning the sport.
  • The controversy surrounding Jallikattu intensified in 2017 when widespread protests erupted in Tamil Nadu against the ban. The protests gained momentum, with people demanding the revival of the sport and a reversal of the court’s decision.
  • Eventually, in 2017, the Tamil Nadu government passed an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which exempted Jallikattu from the ban and allowed its practice under certain regulations. This move received mixed reactions, with some celebrating it as a victory for tradition and others expressing disappointment over what they perceived as a compromise on animal welfare.

What happened after the 2014 ban by the Supreme Court?

  • The Supreme Court over-ruled its 2014 judgement, which had essentially outlawed sports like Jalikattu, Kambala and Bullock Cart race.
  • In 2017, the Tamil Nadu government amended the PCA act thereby allowing jallikattu in the state. The state government sought exemption on grounds to preserve the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu and to ensure survival and well-being of native breeds of bulls.
  • Following the Tamil Nadu, Karnataka government amended the PCA Act in Jan- 2017 to pave the way for Kambala.
  • In July-2017, Mahrashtra government also followed the suit.

What is the latest Supreme Court judgement all about?

  • Tamil Nadu Amendment Act is not a piece of colourable legislation.
  • 2017 amendment act minimises cruelty to animals in the concerned sports.
  • The sports will not come under the definition of cruelty defined in the 1960 Act.
  • 2017 amendment does not violate Article 51-A (g) and 51-A(h), which imposes duties of Indian citizen to protect the environment and develop scientific temper.
  • The amendment does not violate Article 14 and 21.

What is doctrine of colourable legislation?

  • The doctrine of colourable legislation is a legal principle used to determine the constitutional validity of a law or legislation. It refers to a situation where a law appears to be valid on its face, but its true purpose is to circumvent constitutional limitations or deceive the courts or the public.
  • The term “colourable” means something that appears to be true or genuine but is, in fact, false or deceptive. In the context of legislation, it refers to a law that is enacted under the pretense of exercising a valid legislative power, but its actual purpose is to achieve an unconstitutional objective.

What is Kambala?

  • Kambala is a traditional sport that originated in the southern coastal region of Karnataka, India. It is a form of buffalo racing that has been practiced for centuries in rural communities.
  • Kambala is usually held in the months of November to March during the harvest season.
  • In Kambala, two buffalo racers called “jockeys” run through a muddy paddy field while holding onto a wooden plow. The jockeys are typically barefoot and are often seen wearing colorful attire.
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  • The buffaloes used in the race are specially bred and trained for this purpose. They are typically guided by the jockey, who tugs at the plow to urge the buffaloes to run faster.
  • Kambala is not only a sporting event but also a significant cultural celebration in the region. The races are often accompanied by traditional music and dance performances, and the entire community comes together to participate in the festivities. Kambala is seen as a way to honor and showcase the agricultural heritage of the region.

What is Bullock Cart race festival of Maharashtra?

  • Bullock cart racing starts from November and lasts till May.
  • It is a cultural activity and popular amongst farming  community in Alibag Taluka in Maharashtra.
  • Local Bullock art owners and farmers arrange this race mostly in their villages. Bullock cart owners pay obeisance to   Shri Nageshwar during Vaikunth Chaturdashi Yatra at Awas.
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  • The Maharashtrian version of bullock cart racing was known as Bailgada Sharyat, a 450-year-old tradition of the farmers of Konkan, western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
  • These cattle races formed an integral part of the Jatras or village fairs that were held between Makar Sankranti and the Monsoon months, a time when the farmers were not busy in the fields.
  • The money that is  raised by the races is  utilized for the betterment of the village and for the renovation of the local temples. In this manner, cattle racing in India is  an adventure sport that also helped to raise funds for social causes.

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