India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the central government’s notification lifting ban on the controversial bull taming sport Jallikattu during the festival of Pongal in Tamil Nadu state.
“As an interim measure, we direct that there shall be stay of notification dated January 7, 2016 issued by Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF),” a bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana said.
The bench also issued notice to the MoEF and Tamil Nadu on petitions filed by various bodies including Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) seeking striking down of the Centre’s notification and sought their replies within four weeks.
Earlier in the day, a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur referred the petitions to the present bench as one of the judges Justice Banumathi, who hails from Tamil Nadu, recused from hearing the batch of petitions.
The central government’s notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu was challenged in the Supreme Court on Monday by AWBI, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and a Bangalore-based NGO.
The four-year-old ban on holding of Jallikattu was lifted on January 8 by the Narendra Modi government in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions.
The decision to allow Jallikattu along with bullock cart races in other parts of the country had come through a government notification despite strong objections by animal rights groups.
Jallikattu, also known as Eruthazhuvuthal, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.
In its notification, the Centre had said bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, lions and bulls shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals.
Bulls may be continued to be exhibited or trained as a performing animal at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat in the manner by customs of any community or practised traditionally, it said.
However, the government had also put some conditions, saying bullock cart race shall be organised on a proper track, which shall not exceed two kilometers.
In case of Jallikattu, the moment the bull leaves the enclosure, it shall be tamed within a radial distance of 15 meters and it should also be ensured that bulls are put to proper testing by authorities of animal husbandry and veterinary department to ensure that they are in good physical condition to participate in the event.
Performance enhancement drugs are not to be administered to the bulls.
The use of bulls in performances was banned by the UPA government in 2011 on the ground that the sport ended in cruelty to the animals.
Respect sentiments of Tamils: Jaya
In an apparent last-ditch effort to get the nod for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court stay, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa urged Modi to promulgate an ordinance to facilitate holding the traditional sport.
“On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, I urge you to take immediate action in this regard,” she said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Asserting that sentiments of the people should be respected, she said arrangements have already been made by organisers all over the state for conducting Jallikattu.
After she had requested an ordinance, the Centre issued a notification on January 7 enabling conduct of Jallikattu in different parts of Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal festivities, she said.