The Supreme Court on November 30 said the sport of jallikattuas such now might not be brutal but the “form” in which it was being held in Tamil Nadu might be cruel.
A Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph said the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 had laid down procedures to protect the bulls from brutality. Violation of these rules would attract penal action. The procedures had to be supervised by the District Collector.
Justice Ajay Rastogi asked whether the act of jallikattu, once the protective mechanism was in place, could be termed cruel.
Justice Hrishikesh Roy questioned the cultural segment attached to jallikattu.
“Suppose jallikattu is the only way traditionally for a poor man to get married to the local landlord’s daughter. He has to get at the trinkets on the horns of the bull. This is a tradition which has been going for time immemorial… consider the cruelty shown to that young man?” Justice Roy.
“It is not cruelty. It is just the deprivation of an opportunity for the young man to advance his position… Cruelty is to the animal who is forced without choice to be part of it,” senior advocate Shyam Divan responded.
Mr. Divan, responding to Justice Rastogi, said it was not whether jallikattu was performed following a set of rules or not.
He said the basic issue here was that jallikattu was antithetical to the very nature and body structure of the bull, a bovine animal. He said it was cruelty pure to compel a frightened, choiceless animal to suffer pain.
“A bull is not a performing animal,” Mr. Divan submitted.
Justice Rastogi said the court should confine itself to the rules and not ground realities.
“Rules and the ground realities do not necessarily match. We should just test the scheme and not the ground realities,” Justice Rastogi addressed Mr. Divan.
The senior advocate, however, responded that the court should also test the efficacy of the law. It should examine the impact or “direct or inevitable consequence” of the law on the ground and check whether it satisfied the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The Tamil Nadu government, in its affidavit, had described jallikattu as a “practice which is centuries-old and symbolic of a community’s identity… It will be viewed as hostile to culture and against the sensitivities of the community. The people of Tamil Nadu have a right to preserve their traditions and culture”.