Context: A five-judge Bench of the SC upheld the amendments made by TN, Maharashtra and Karnataka to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960, allowing bull-taming sports like Jallikattu, Kambala, and bullock-cart races.
What is Jallikattu ?
- It is a bull-taming sport traditionally played in TN as part of the Pongal harvest festival and as a celebration of nature, of which cattle worship is a part.
- However, it has long been contested over cruelty to animals and the bloody and dangerous nature of the sport.
Significance of Pongal and Jallikattu
- Pongal is a harvest festival in Tamil Nadu, celebrated with thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and rituals honoring cattle.
- Jallikattu, a bull-taming event, is an integral part of the festival and showcases the strength and skill of farm hands in southern Tamil Nadu.
Issue with the sport
- Human deaths: The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
- Manhandling of animals: Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.
- Cruelty to animal: Practices, before the bull is released, include prodding the bull with sharp sticks or scythes, extreme bending of the tail which can fracture the vertebrae, and biting of the bull’s tail.
- Animal intoxication: There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chilli peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.
The recent verdict of the SC:
- It overruled its 2014 ruling in ‘Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja’ and held that Jallikattu has a strong cultural component.
- The amendments (to the PCA) were “valid legislations”, as these are not a piece of colourable legislation and that it relates to List III of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution [prevention of cruelty to animals]
- The court also said that the 2017 amendment does not violate –
- Articles 51-A (g) and 51-A (h), which impose duties on Indian citizens to protect the environment and develop a scientific temper, humanism, spirit of inquiry, and reform, respectively.
- Articles 14 (Right to Equality) and 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.
- However, the Jallikattu issue is “debatable” and must ultimately be decided by the Parliament, as the issue requires social and cultural analysis in greater detail.
- Tradition and culture should be considered in the rights discourse, recognizing the cultural context of practices like Jallikattu.
- Engagement and negotiation between animal rights advocates and local culture and tradition are necessary for a balanced approach.
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