Law allows animal sacrifice in the name of religion and there is nothing wrong in holding Jallikattu, the Centre told the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday refused to stay a recent legislation that overrode the court’s ban on the bull-taming sport.
The court didn’t put the new Tamil Nadu law on hold but it came down hard on the state government for failing to maintain law and order during recent protests.
“Goats are sacrificed throughout the country during a festival. This is done because the law — prevention of cruelty to animals — permits it to do so,” the Centre’s top legal officer Mukul Rohatgi said in a reference to Eid ul Adha as he defended the state government’s new law.
He said the law was conscious that there should not be cruelty to animals. “But, a holistic approach is required to be taken,” he told a bench of justice Dipak Misra and justice RF Nariman.
The attorney general said the Constitution also called for preservation of culture and conservation of animal breeds, the objective behind Jallikattu.
Only native breeds race in Jallikattu which is held in mid-January as part of Pongal festivities. Supporters see the traditional sport as an incentive to protect local breeds such as Bargur and Kangayam facing an onslaught from foreign bred animals.
The court had two years ago banned Jallikattu after the animal rights body, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the event amounted to cruelty towards bulls.
Tamil Nadu was rocked by protests in January by students, techies and others demanding an end to the ban.
The bench was critical of the state government for failing to control the protesters as they demonstrated against the court ban.
“What was the necessity for those road marches? Why did the situation crop up when the matter was sub judice?” it asked senior advocate K Parasaran, who appeared for Tamil Nadu.
“We are concerned about the court’s honour. There should not be any ifs and buts in it… When the final arbiter under the Constitution is seized of the matter then there should be silence and obedience.”
The court said it would examine if Jallikattu could be categorised as a cultural practice, which the Constitution says must be preserved.
It also allowed Rohatgi to withdraw the Centre’a 2016 notification that permitted Jallikattu and sought Tamil Nadu government’s reply applications seeking a stay on the new law.
The Tamil Nadu assembly had on January 21 passed an amendment bill for conducting Jallikattu, replacing an ordinance to amend the prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960.