The Jallikattu issue is indeed sub-judice. An ordinance either by the Centre or the state to overturn the court-dictated ban would amount to undermining the judiciary.
The Supreme Court had proscribed the sport in 2014. The ministry of environment and forests issued subsequently a notification excluding bulls from the category of animals banned from use in games. That in a way was an NDA effort to let the sport be. The notification it issued lacked the force of legislation but addressed reasons that caused the ban.
The notification was challenged subsequently by the Animal Welfare Board that’s a quasi-government body, on grounds that it circumvented the court order. The SC has since reserved its judgment on the Board’s plea. It refused to expedite the verdict when approached for an early decision in view of Pongal festivities, very much part of which is Jallikattu.
So what’s the way out amid rising public outrage in Tamil Nadu where the ban is perceived as an intrusion on Dravidian culture? A top government law officer told me the notification that allowed use of bulls for the sport (and is under challenge in court) could be fine-tuned and promulgated as an ordinance for passage later by Parliament. Governments have taken the route of “legislatively removing the causes of adverse judgments” umpteen times in the past. Such moves aren’t meant to be an affront to the judiciary but a kind of course correction on politically sticky issues.
His proposal could be valid if the matter is treated as relating to ‘wildlife’ that’s on the central list in the separation of legislative powers between the Centre and states. But a senior minister with legal expertise had another suggestion. He said the Tamil Nadu government could itself deal with the issue under the sports category. Sport was the subject mentioned besides theatre and dramatic performances in entry 33 of List II of the Constitution’s seventh schedule that delineates legislative powers of states.
In short, the rules by which Jallikattu is performed or played could be legislatively tweaked to eliminate elements that caused the court to ban it — such as possibility of injury or anxiety amounting to cruelty to the animal. Tamil people say they revered the bull; that the animal sport was part of their culture. That leaves scope for prescribing punishment for offenders on the ground that their action was an ‘insult to Dravidian tradition and pride’.
The law officer agreed the Centre legislating on the bull-taming game popular in just one state wasn’t advisable — more so when it could come across as confrontational in the light of the very strong position the SC took while banning it in 2014.
The Tamil Nadu law could, in its objectives, state the sport was being permitted with certain restrictions as it is part of the Dravidian milieu in which the bull is revered. That’ll be a win-win for all stakeholders without crossing the apex court’s path.