A day before the Supreme Court hears a clutch of petitions filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and NGOs, including Peta, challenging the government’s decision to lift the ban on Jallikattu, a number of non-official members of AWBI, including its chairman Major General (retired) Dr RM Kharb, have been asked by the environment ministry to either “not go against the government” or “resign” from the board.
AWBI is a statutory body under the environment ministry and has 22 members, a majority of whom are non-official members. The remaining are government officials nominated to the board.
Sources confirmed to HT that the AWBI chairman was called up by a senior official in the environment ministry and asked to put in his papers. “The chairman was asked how AWBI, which functions under the environment ministry, could go against the government. He was told to either withdraw the petition or resign,” the source said.
However, neither the AWBI chairman nor any of the non-official members have resigned. “We are a statutory body with the mandate to take up the cause of animal welfare.
“Jallikattu is a cruel sport and we will raise our voice against it. Otherwise, we will fail in our job,” said an AWBI official.
When contacted, environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in the Northeast told HT, “I am not aware of this. I am in the Northeast. I will look into it. I am not aware if AWBI has also gone to court.”
HT also tried to contact the senior ministry official named by AWBI members who had called the chairman but he did not respond to the calls.
In their petition, the AWBI has said that the government’s move infringed the rights and protection conferred on animals by law and the court.
The environment ministry had last week brought out a notification lifting the ban on Jallikattu.