The Animal Welfare Board of India And Ors. v. UoI And Anr. WP(C) No. 23/2016
Bench comprised of: K.M JOSEPH, C.T RAVIKUMAR, AJAY RASTOGI, ANIRUDDHA BOSE, HRISHIKESH ROY
- The cited case, Animal Welfare Board of India and Others v. Union of India and Another (WP(C) No. 23/2016), is a notable Supreme court case involving the practice of Jallikattu, a sport in Tamil Nadu and some neighboring states in India.
- The Indian state of Tamil Nadu is home to the traditional bull-taming sport known as Jallikattu. The festival is a celebration of nature, and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, of which cattle-worship is part. It is performed during the Pongal harvest.
- Due to worries about animal care and safety, it has been an issue of dispute. The practice was outlawed in 2014 by the Indian Supreme Court on grounds of animal cruelty. However, the state of Tamil Nadu passed a law authorising Jallikattu with some restrictions in 2017
QUESTION OF LAW
- Whether the challenged Tamil Nadu Amendment Act directly conflict with the ruling in the A Nagaraja case and the review judgement rendered on November 16, 2016 in the same case, and can it be said that the Tamil Nadu Legislature has remedied the issues raised in the aforementioned two judgements by passing the challenged Tamil Nadu Amendment Act?
- Is the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act written in such a way as to guarantee the existence and welfare of the local breed of bulls?
- Is the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act referable, in pith and substance, to Entry 17, List III ( Prevention of cruelty to animals in the Concurrent List), in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, or does it further do cruelty to animals.
- In this case, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and other animal rights organizations filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 and the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Rules, 2017.
- The main argument presented by the petitioners was that Jallikattu violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, as well as other animal welfare provisions. They contended that the sport involves unnecessary harm and suffering to the bulls, making it an act of animal cruelty.
- The Supreme Court heard the arguments from both sides and, on January 12, 2017, upheld its previous ban on Jallikattu. The court stated that the practice violated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and that the concern for animal welfare should take precedence (priority) over cultural traditions or claims of historical significance.
- However, it is important to note that the verdict triggered widespread protests and demonstrations in Tamil Nadu, as Jallikattu is deeply rooted in the cultural fabric of the state. The Tamil Nadu government and various groups sought to revoke the ban, arguing that Jallikattu was an integral part of their tradition and should be allowed with proper regulations and safeguards.
- Following the protests and public sentiment, the Central Government intervened, and in January 2017, an ordinance was promulgated to allow the conduct of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. The ordinance was later replaced by the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2017, which sought to regulate the sport with specific conditions and restrictions to ensure the welfare of animals.
- A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on May 18, upheld the amendments made by the legislatures of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, allowing bull-taming sports like jallikattu, kambala, and bullock-cart races.
- The five-judge Bench overruled the view taken by a two-judge Bench of the court in its 2014 ruling in ‘Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 2007) banning such sports including jallikattu.
- While the Bench led by Justice K M Joseph ruled that the amendments, made in 2017, were “valid legislations”, it said that the jallikattu issue was “debatable”, and must ultimately be decided by the House of the People (Lok Sabha). Making this decision requires social and cultural analysis in greater detail, and such an exercise “cannot be undertaken by the judiciary”, the Bench said.
- “There is no flaw in State action. It is a bovine sport and participation will be allowed as per the rules. Act is not relatable to Article 48 of the constitution. Incidental impact may fall upon certain types of bulls affecting agricultural activity but it is referable, in pith and substance, to Entry 17, List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India,” the court held in the judgment.
- While the initial petitions filed in the case of ‘Animal Welfare Board of India v. Union of India’ had sought a direction to the states to comply with the 2014 SC ruling in ‘Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja’, the passage of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act in 2017 led to a scenario where the petitions had to be modified to include the quashing of the 2017 Act among its prayers.
The court ruled today in favour of the Tamil Nadu Government to continue the Jallikattu and other bull-taming sports like Kambala, and bullock-cart races.
In conclusion, the debate surrounding Jallikattu is complex and multifaceted. While it is vital to respect and preserve cultural traditions, it is equally important to prioritize the welfare and ethical treatment of animals. Finding a middle ground that respects both aspects is crucial for a sustainable and inclusive approach to Jallikattu and similar cultural practices. As the Tamil Nadu government made amendments concerning matters to conduct Jallikattu with regulations made it easier for the court to rule in favour of them.