Presidential assent on Jallikattu considered all aspects: Centre to SC
The bench of justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar said their concern was whether the President had gone through the rules framed by the state government providing safeguards to be observed while permitting such sports/events.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that there was nothing amiss about the Presidential assent given to the three state laws pertaining to bull-taming race of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and animal races of Maharashtra and Karnataka as every single document was submitted for consideration by the respective states.
“Jallikattu”, also known as “eruthazhuvuthal”, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
Appearing before a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court which asked the Centre on Wednesday to examine the files and even keep it handy for examination by the Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “I have seen the files placed before the President for assent. Every single aspect of the case was presented. I will be filing a one-page affidavit to this effect.”
The bench of justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar told Mehta that their concern was whether the President had gone through the rules framed by the state government providing safeguards to be observed while permitting such sports/events.
Mehta said, “The Presidential assent is not under challenge in these proceedings. I examined it only because the Court asked me to do so. I am satisfied.”
The bench told Mehta, “We want to know if the President had the Rules before him.”
The Court was referring to the rules framed by the individual states under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that had to be amended in 2017 to bring these events in line with a Supreme Court judgment in 2014 that declared bulls, bullocks cannot be performing animals. Mehta agreed to respond to this in the affidavit.
Animal welfare organisations, including the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have challenged the three laws in the top court, saying that the new Rules introduced by the states made no substantial changes and under the new regime, cruelty continued to be perpetrated on the animals.
The Tamil Nadu government, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, told the Court that a Constitution bench which is deciding the issue whether the laws can be sustained on the ground of a prevailing custom or culture cannot go into questions of fact. “We cannot convert the Constitution bench into an exercise of discovering facts,” Sibal said.
The state’s concerns arose after the Court examined the manner in which Jallikattu is conducted, how many participants are present in the ring with bulls, and a fear is created in the minds of the bulls who are put in an enclosure where young men try to embrace its hump.
The bench remarked, “Provisions are there to prevent cruelty but at the implementation level, these are not followed. If in real life a law is violated in toto, is it not open for the Court to hold that the law is unimplementable and per so cruel.” Sibal said that to arrive at this conclusion, there needs to be a finding of fact and that exercise cannot be done by a Constitution bench.
“That will mean the legislature is incapable of dealing with the issue. This assumption is extreme.”
Sibal further suggested that the thrust of organising Jallikattu is not entertainment as suggested by the petitioners. “Both the Centre and Tamil Nadu are concerned about protecting these breeds. If domestic bulls become extinct, it will be very dangerous,” he said, adding that Jallikattu provides an opportunity to showcase this special breed of bulls. “It is to tell the world that this is the bull you need to mate with,” he added.
The Court even found that the amendment introduced by the TN government failed to specify the protections available to the animals in case anybody kicks or does anything to the animal which is otherwise prohibited by the Prevention of Cruelty Act. “So much of silence in your legislation is what is disturbing.”
Sibal said that the intent of the legislature is always to prevent any harm caused to the animal. “We have a symbiotic relationship with nature and nature in all forms. No state can argue that we need not ensure full protection of animals, which are sentient beings. But to the extent we use them, it should not cause unnecessary pain.”
Sibal said that domesticating any animal is itself painful but such pain is necessary. He pointed out that the Rules providing for Jallikattu make provisions for protecting the bull and lay down penal provisions for those men who violate it by administering it with intoxicants, alcohol, or performance enhancers among a list of other prohibited activities. It was the prevalence of such activities during Jallikattu that led the Supreme Court in 2014 to hold that the law providing for Jallikattu was unconstitutional.
In February 2018, the top court referred the amendment passed by TN reviving the event with safeguards and the other two laws for buffalo race (Kambala) in Karnataka and bullock-cart race in Maharashtra for consideration by a five-judge bench. The arguments by Tamil Nadu will resume on Tuesday.