The Tamil Nadu government’s rush to issue an ordinance to skirt a Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu could be just a move to buy time and defuse a crisis sparked by a massive agitation over the popular bull-taming sport.
Experts said an ordinance might not stand the scrutiny of the apex court which had banned the ancient sport in 2014 on grounds of cruelty to animals.
Last year, the Centre issued a notification excluding bulls from the category of animals banned from use in sports, effectively nullifying the court order. The notification was, however, challenged by the Animal Welfare Board.
The top court is yet to pronounce its judgment on the board’s plea. The court last week refused to expedite the verdict in view of the Pongal festivities, triggering the fresh wave of protests across the southern state.
Sources said the Tamil Nadu government sent the draft ordinance to the home ministry on Thursday night, hours after chief minister O Paneerselvan met Prime Minister Naredrda Modi over the issue that has turned into what many said was a battle for Tamil pride.
On Friday, the chief minister said his government was ready to promulgate an ordinance to allow Jallikattu.
Earlier too, the apex court had struck down the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act 2009, terming it constitutionally void.
A fresh ordinance could buy time for the state government, sources said and also counter the opposition DMK’s charge that the ruling AIADMK did little to lift the ban.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said on Thursday the Centre cannot do much, but the state government can enact a law “if it’s a sport to be treated as part of Tamil Nadu’s culture”.
The legislation can incorporate stringent conditions to ensure that the bulls are not subjected to cruelty, one of the main contentions of rights groups including the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).
“It can be done keeping in view concerns under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and also the Supreme Court judgment that says the event cannot take place since it violated the law,” Rohatgi said.
Panneerselvam, who stayed back in Delhi on Thursday, to discuss the matter with legal experts and government officials, said after the Centre’s approval, the ordinance will be sent for Presidential assent.
He sounded confident of seeing the matter through as he recalled the Prime Minster’s assurance of support to any legal steps by his government to allow the bull-taming sport.
He said though the Centre had issued a notification last year for its conduct, various organisations had moved the Supreme Court which issued an interim stay even as it was yet to pronounce the verdict.
(With agency inputs)