New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay a Tamil Nadu government legislation legalising jallikattu, the bull-taming festival, but said it would refer to a five-judge constitution bench the question whether the state had the legislative competence to enact a law on the issue.
The top court had in 2014 held the festival illegal, but the state enacted a law apparently to circumvent the judgment. Several animal rights groups have legally challenged the Tamil Nadu government’s move.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice R.F. Nariman reserved its orders on a batch of petitions challenging the law and said the constitution bench would examine whether jallikattu could get constitutional protection as a “traditional and cultural right” under Article 29 (1). “Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”
The Animal Welfare Board, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations and the Compassion Unlimited Plus Action have filed the petitions challenging the Tamil Nadu law.
The court said that apart from jallikattu, the constitution bench would examine the bullock cart race in Maharashtra, which too has been challenged by the animal rights groups.
“The question to be addressed is whether jallikattu can be allowed under the constitutional protection granted to certain tradition or as a cultural right, whether this right can be given constitutional recognition and whether the Tamil Nadu law amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, takes away the basis of ‘prevention of cruelty’ and if so whether it can be permitted,” the Supreme Court said.
When senior advocate Sidharth Luthra and the others appearing for the animal rights groups sought a stay, the court refused.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said that as the state government’s law had received the President’s assent, no interim order could be passed at this stage.
Rohatgi argued that the state had passed the law to prevent cruelty to animals, such as pouring chilli powder, piercing with weapons and whipping.
“There are no fetters on the state to enact a law to give protection to the tradition being followed for over 2,500 years,” the senior advocate said.
Justice Nariman said the matter needed to be examined by a constitution bench as Article 29(1) says: “Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”
Dated:13 Dec 2017