The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a central government notification paving the way for a return of the banned bull taming sport Jallikattu, effectively scuttling plans of staging the event during Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu later this week.
“What is the necessity of such kind of a festival? There was no festival for four years. Nothing had happened,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and Tamil Nadu government counsel LN Rao before issuing the stay order that came on a batch of petitions challenging the Janaury 7 ministry of environment and forest notification.
As people in Tamil Nadu reacted with surprise and anger, chief minister Jayalalithaa wrote to the Centre once again, the second time on the issue, seeking an Ordinance for allowing the popular sport.
The top court also issued notices to the two and other states where the controversial sport is played as both counsels objected to the petitions filed by animal welfare organisations saying that no fundamental right of the petitioners were violated. The petitioners had said the notification, permitting the popular event, was overriding the SC 2014 judgement banning jallikattu and bull racing events.
The sport that has been an integral part of Pongal festivities was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014, following demands from rights groups who pointed to animal cruelty and human deaths during the event.
Hours after the SC order Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the traditional Tamil sport to be held.
In her letter she recalled her request to Modi on December 22 last year to promulgate an ordinance allowing Jallikattu to be held. She said: “Considering the urgency of the issue, I strongly reiterate my earlier request to promulgate an Ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of Jallikattu. On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu I urge you to take immediate action in this regard.”
Both Centre and State had said that the MoEF notification had underlined safety measures to be taken during the sport.
Rohatgi drew an analogy from the popular game of cricket and said : “Nefarious activities take place in cricket. However, we cannot ban the game. A system has to evolve to stop the illegalities.” Rohatgi added the State has to balance the inspiration of large section of society.
“If we don’t burn crackers, won’t it breach our culture,” he told the bench, asserting his point that the event would be duly monitored.
Under the rules, permission has to be given by the district collector or magistrate and bullock cart races must be held on a proper track.
Bulls, once they leave the enclosure, have to be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metres, the government order said.
The new norms came after a concerted political push by parties in the poll-bound Tamil Nadu, where the banned sport has a strong connection with thousands of people who view it as a part of their culture.