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The fate of the case in the Supreme Court regarding Jallikattu has become uncertain after some developments surrounding the traditional sport in the last two days.
First was the promulgation of the Ordinance by the Tamil Nadu government exempting Jallikattu from the ambit of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The Central government had aided the same by rendering quick approval to the Ordinance.
Subsequently, the Centre told the Supreme Court yesterday that it will withdraw the notification of January 2016, which was the subject matter of litigation before the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi mentioned the matter at 2 pm yesterday before Justice Dipak Misra and said that the Centre was planning to withdraw the notification.
The notification in question was issued by the Central government on January 7, 2016. It was in suppression of its earlier notification of 2011, which had banned the use of bulls as performing animals.
The new notification had carved out an exception for Jallikattu and bullock cart races, stating the following:
“Provided that bulls may be continue to be exhibited or trained as a performing animal, at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat in the manner by the customs of any community or practiced traditionally under the customs or as a part of culture, in any part of the country…”
Subsequently, protests against restrictions on Jallikattu had intensified in Tamil Nadu, ultimately culminating in the promulgation of an ordinance passed by the state government allowing Jallikattu.
This has now led to the Centre withdrawing the notification, since it was rendered moot by the ordinance.
But what about the case in Supreme Court?
What remains of the case currently is the pronouncement of judgment in the matter. The judgment is being keenly awaited by lawyers, animal activists and supporters of the traditional sport alike, as a lot of issues are likely to be discussed by the Court, including the scope of the 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court.
However, since the whole case had its genesis in the January 2016 notification which is being withdrawn, the matter has been rendered moot. Or has it?
This is not the first time that such an instance has happened.
The Court was faced with a similar dilemma four decades ago while dealing with an issue of seminal importance – transfer of High Court judges.
The case, Union Of India v. Sankal Chand Himatlal Sheth, pertained to transfer of Justice Sankal Chand Himatlal Sheth from the Gujarat High Court to the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The judge had challenged the same but the matter was eventually settled between the Central government and Justice Sheth. But since the parties had advanced arguments before the Supreme Court, the Court went ahead and delivered its judgment, stating that the case involved issues of pubic importance.
Justice PN Bhagwati wrote the following in his judgment regarding whether to deliver the judgment or not:
“It is not necessary to work out the final order in the case in accordance with the view taken in the judgment in regard to the two points raised before us, since as already pointed out in the beginning of the judgment, the parties settled the matter between them after the arguments were ended and we accordingly passed an order on August 26, 1977 disposing of the appeal in terms of the settlement. Since, however, there was full debate before us and elaborate arguments were advanced on the two points arising for consideration, we decided to give a considered judgment.…”
Justice VR Krishna Iyer had this to say in his judgment in the same case:
“We have earlier stated that the appeal has happily ended in consensus. The deeper Constitutional issues have been considered and answered by us responding to our duty under article 141…The highest Court with Constitutional authority to declare the law cannot shrink from obligation because the lis which has activised its jurisdiction has justly been adjusted”.
So what now?
Says Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde.
“Normally in such cases, the matter is rendered infructuous and the Court closes the case. Deviation from this normal course is rare.”
The Animal Welfare Board of India has now moved the Supreme Court challenging the Jallikattu ordinance passed by Tamil Nadu government.
It will be heard on Monday along with Centre’s application regarding withdrawing the notification.