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Jallikattu as “cultural right” under Article 29: Matter likely to be referred to Constitution Bench

Bar & Bench

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is likely to decide on the scope of Jallikattu as a “cultural right” under Article 29 of the Constitution.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Nariman today reserved its verdict on the challenge to the law passed by Tamil Nadu amending the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 to permit Jallikattu.

During the course of the hearing, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, submitted that Jallikattu is part of the culture and tradition of Tamil Nadu and hence, protected under Article 29 of the Constitution. He also submitted that by amending the law, the state has not sanctioned cruelty and Rules have been framed to prevent cruelty to bulls during the sport.

The petitioners, on the other hand, contended that the  law passed by Tamil Nadu circumvents the judgment of the Supreme Court banning Jallikattu and other similar sports. It was further submitted that the amendment effectively nullifies the protection granted by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The Bench observed that the question of whether a state can make a law claiming cultural right will have to be examined by a larger Bench.

It then proceeded to reserve its verdict.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had held the practice of Jallikattu to be violative of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960. Specifically with regard to the cultural aspect of the sport, Justice KS Radhakrishnan had held in that judgment that Jallikattu, as it is practiced today, has never been the culture or tradition of Tamil Nadu.

Last year, the Supreme Court had dismissed a Review Petition filed against the 2014 judgment by the Tamil Nadu government. Amidst widespread protests in Tamil Nadu earlier this year, the state government promulgated an ordinance that sought to exempt Jallikattu from the purview of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Read a detailed timeline of the case here.