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#Lawyer’s Lingo: Jallikattu and the Centre’s decision to take the bull by the horns

#Lawyer’s Lingo: Jallikattu and the Centre’s decision to take the bull by the horns

Aditya AK

The Central government seems to have locked horns with the judiciary once again. This time, the Ministry of Environment has issued a notification allowing the practice of Jallikattu and bullock cart races.

What is problematic is that in 2014 the Supreme Court of India had held the practice of Jallikattu to be a violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

In this edition of Lawyer’s Lingo, we analyse the Centre’s intentions, bearing in mind the judgment in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja & Ors.

What is Jallikattu?

The word ‘Jallikattu’ literally translates to silver or gold coins tied on the bulls’ horns. The practice of Jallikattu was an age-old tradition where people in Tamil Nadu used to try and get the money placed around the bulls’ horns, which depicted as an act of bravery. However, the practice has evolved considerably over the years.

Later, it became a sport conducted for entertainment and was called Yeruthu Kattu, in which a fast moving bull was corralled with ropes around its neck. It later assumed different forms and shapes like Jallikattu (in the present form), Bull Race etc., which is based on the concept of flight or fight.

What are the laws involved?

The practice is regulated by the Tamil Nadu Jallikkattu Regulation (TNJR) Act of 2009. An anthropocentric legislation, the Act offers little in the way of preventing cruelty to animals. It is also relevant to note that bulls and bullocks are classified as draught and pack animals under the Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965.

Even if bulls were to be treated as performing animals, there is a provision in the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001 that holds the owner responsible for the humane treatment of the animal. Rule 8(v) states that the owner shall ensure that any animal is not inflicted unnecessary pain or suffering before or during or after its training or exhibition.

Why is Jallikattu against the law?

In Animal Welfare Board of India v. A Nagaraja & Ors., the Animal Welfare Board of India conducted an investigation into the practice, visiting several villages in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Their findings shed light on the inhumane treatment meted out to bulls involved in the practices. The Report, which was referred to in the 2014 judgment states,

“…one bull died and many more were injured. Investigators observed that bulls were forced to participate and were deliberately taunted, tormented, mutilated, stabbed, beaten, chased and denied even their most basic needs, including food, water and sanitation…the findings of this investigation clearly show that bulls who are used in Jallikattu are subjected to extreme cruelty and unmitigated suffering.”

Further, it was pointed out that several forms of torture were used to instigate the bulls into a frenzy before the event. These included ear cutting, biting and twisting the bulls’ tails, poking them with sharp objects, using irritants in their eyes, forcing them to drink alcohol, etc.

Now, Section 3 of the Prevention of Animal Cruelty (PCA) Act says,

“It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.”

Further, sub-clauses (a) and (m) of Section 11(1) are worthy of taking note.

“11. Treating animals cruelly: (1) If any person

(a) beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated

{(m) solely with a view to providing entertainment (i) confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object or prey for any other animal…”

A separate Chapter in the Act deals with exhibition of performing animals.

“22. Restriction on exhibition and training of performing animals: No person shall exhibit or train

(i) any performing animal unless he is registered in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter;

(ii) as a performing animal, any animal which the Central Government may, by notification in the official gazette, specify as an animal which shall not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal.”

What has the Supreme Court held in this regard?

A Bench of KS Radhakrishnan and PC Ghose JJ. unequivocally held that Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race and such events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of the PCA Act, read with Article 51A(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution.

The court also held that the TNRJ Act, 2009, was repugnant to the PCA Act and was struck down as unconstitutional and void.

Interestingly, the Bench was hearing petitions challenging a similar government notification issued in 2011. Initially, the Centre had passed a notification stating that bulls were among the animals which could not be exhibited or trained as performing animals. Later, a corrigendum was made, exempting the practice of Jallikattu on account of “historical, cultural or religious significance”.

What does the Centre’s latest notification say?

It is a case of déjà vu, as the new notification, dated January 7, bears a striking similarity to the 2011 one. While including bulls in the category of animals which could not be used for training or performing, the practice of Jallikattu has again been exempted.

This time, however, the Centre has included safeguards. These include:

“(i) such event shall take place in any District where it is being traditionally held annually, at such place explicitly permitted by the District Collector or the District Magistrate;

(ii) bullock cart race shall be organised on a proper track, which shall not exceed two kilometres. In case of Jallikattu, the moment the bull leaves the enclosure, it shall be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metre;

(iii) ensure that the bulls are put to proper testing by the authorities of the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department to ensure that they are in good physical condition to participate in the event and performance enhancement drugs are not administered to the bulls in any form; and

(iv) ensure that the rights conferred upon the animals under section 3 and clause (a) and clause (m) of sub-section (1) of section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and five freedoms declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court…”

Do these new measures satisfy the apex courts concerns?

Though the Centre clearly has the power to make exemptions as to what animals can be regarded as performing animals under Section 22 of the PCA Act, it is difficult to see how it can do so without contravening the 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court.

In the 106-page verdict, Radhakrishnan J. has delved deep into the matter, touching upon subjects like animal psychology, anatomy and international animal rights. He makes a fundamental point when he says that bulls were never meant to be performing animals. In fact, they are recognized as Draught and Pack animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965. He also goes into how bulls are forced to run, contrary to their instinct.

“Bulls, in those events, are observed to carry out a “flight response” running away from the crowd as well as from the Bull tamers, since they are in fear and distress, this natural instinct is being exploited.”

Long story short, bulls will not feel naturally inclined to race and run unless provoked by fear. This aspect ties into one of the five freedoms enlisted in the judgment, and also referred to in clause (iv) of the new notification.

“Chapter 7.1.2 of the guidelines of OIE, recognizes five internationally recognized freedoms for animals:

(i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;

(ii) freedom from fear and distress;

(iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;

(iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and

(v) freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.”

So, even if measures are taken to ensure humane treatment to the bulls during the events, as intended by the government, the question remains as to whether bulls can be made to race without being harmed. In any case, shortening the length of the race, as envisioned by clause (ii) was never a concern.

But what about culture and tradition?

In the 2014 judgment, the apex court clearly stated that the evolved practice is not part of tradition or culture.

“Jallikattu means, silver or gold coins tied to the bulls horns and in olden days those who get at the money to the bulls horns would marry the daughter of the owner. Jallikattu or the bullock cart race, as practised now, has never been the tradition or culture of Tamil Nadu.”

So what next?

Though it remains to be seen as to what will happen next, you can count on the Animal Welfare Board of India to not take this lying down. In fact, AWBI’s challenge may not be too far away.

Read the notification dated January 7:


Image taken from here.