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  • 06 Jan 2023
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Jallikattu, Article 29, Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja case, Pongal, Kambala,

For Mains: Traditional and Cultural significance of Jallikattu, Issues related to Jallikattu

Why in News?

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reserved for judgment a batch of petitions seeking to strike down a Tamil Nadu law which protects Jallikattu by claiming that the bull-taming sport is a cultural heritage of the State and is protected under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.

  • While these practices may be deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of certain communities, they are often controversial and have been criticized by animal welfare advocates.

What is Jallikattu?

  • Jallikattu is a traditional sport that is popular in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
  • The sport involves releasing a wild bull into a crowd of people, and the participants attempt to grab the bull's hump and ride it for as long as possible, or attempt to bring it under control.
  • It is celebrated in the month of January, during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.

What are the Associated Concerns?

  • The primary question involved was whether Jallikattu should be granted constitutional protection as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1).
    • Article 29 (1) is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution to protect the educational and cultural rights of citizens.
  • The court examined if the laws “perpetuate cruelty to animals” or were actually a means to ensure “the survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls”.
  • The five-judge Bench heard parties on whether the new Jallikattu laws were “relatable” to Article 48 of the Constitution, which urged the state to endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
  • The Constitution Bench also looked into whether Jallikattu and bullock-cart races laws of Karnataka and Maharashtra would actually sub-serve the objective of “prevention” of cruelty to animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.

What are the Associated Legal Interventions?

  • In 2011, the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited.
  • The Supreme Court banned Jallikattu through a judgment in May 2014 in the Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja case on the grounds of cruelty to animals.
  • In 2018, the Supreme Court referred the Jallikattu case to a Constitution Bench, where it is pending now.
  • The bone of contention is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017, which had re-opened the gates for the conduct of the popular bull-taming sport in the name of culture and tradition despite a 2014 ban by the Supreme Court.

What were the Arguments adduced for and against Jallikattu?

  • Argument in Favour:
    • In Tamil Nadu, jallikattu is both a religious and cultural event celebrated by the people of the State and its influence extends beyond the confines of caste and creed.
    • “A practice which is centuries-old and symbolic of a community’s identity can be regulated and reformed as the human race evolves rather than being completely obliterated,” the State government submitted.
    • It added that any ban on such a practice would be viewed as “hostile to culture and against the sensitivities of the community”.
    • Describing jallikattu as “a tool for conserving this precious indigenous breed of livestock,” the government argued that the traditional event did not violate principles of compassion and humanity.
    • It contended that the traditional and cultural significance of the event and its intertwining with the sociocultural milieu was being taught in high school curriculum so that “the significance is maintained beyond generations.”
  • Arguments in Opposition:
    • The petitioners’ line of argument was that animal life was inextricably connected to the lives of humans. Liberty was “inherent in every living being, whether it be in any form of life,” an aspect that had been recognized by the Constitution.
    • The Tamil Nadu law was brought to circumvent the ban on jallikattu imposed by the Supreme Court.
    • Deaths and injuries have been caused to humans as well as bulls which had taken place in several districts of the State while conducting jallikattu.
    • The petitioners contended that contrary to the arguments advanced by Tamil Nadu, several tamers pounced on bulls.
    • According to them, “extreme cruelty” was inflicted on the animals.
    • There was no material to justify jallikattu as a part of culture.
    • The critics had equated the event with practices such as sati and dowry, which were also once recognized as part of culture and stopped through legislation.

What is the Position in Other States for Similar Sports?

  • Karnataka too passed a law to save a similar sport, called Kambala.
  • Except in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where bull-taming and racing continue to be organized, these sports remain banned in all other states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra due to the 2014 ban order from the Supreme Court.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of Secularism? (2019)

Source: TH

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