Though the Supreme Court declined to stay the operation of the new Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Act, it sharply censured the southern state for its failure to curb the recent massive protests earlier this month. The protesters had insisted on the right of Tamils to hold this ancient bull taming sport.
“Please tell your state executive that law and order is of primacy in a civilised society,” a bench led by Justice Dipak Mishra told senior advocate K Parasaran, who was representing the Tamil Nadu government.
Alluding to the manner in which the Jallikattu Act — essentially a state amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, introduced by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam — was hurriedly passed by the legislature on January 23, Justice Misra added, “There should not be cruelty to animals on the bedrock of culture.”
The special bench had in December 2016, reserved its order on an issue that challenged a January 2016 notification issued by the Centre allowing Jallikattu – a bull taming sport played during the festival of Pongal. Animal rights’ activists had challenged this notification claiming the Centre had over reached the 2014 SC verdict that had banned the sport.
Responding to the apex court’s criticism, Parasaran said that since the bull-taming sport was banned in 2014, around 5,724 animals indigenous to the sport were sold. Hence, there was an absolute necessity to protest in order to protect their culture, he added.
However, Justice Misra, along with Justice Rohinton Nariman, was of the opinion that there was a way to react to the situation that arose. “We are governed by the concept of rule of law. This (protests) should not happen,” the bench said.
The justices of the top court were referring to the protest in favour of the bull-taming sport that saw thousands throng Marina beach in Chennai and at other spots across Tamil Nadu.
The senior advocate representing Tamil Nadu had no response to these questions and said that the protests were a way of expression – freedom of which is one of the fundamentals under the Constitution.
The bench contested this claim and added, “If the judgment is being complied with, how can there be protests…to openly come out in protests on the streets and violate the SC order, this is not permissible…we are only concerned with preserving the court’s order and dignity.”
This special bench, constituted to look into this matter, dealt with several issues. It issued notice on an appeal seeking a stay on the operation of the legislative law passed. Animal rights activists also plan to challenge the amended act.
Caught In the Line of Fire
“How can there be protests…to openly come out in protests on the streets and violate the SC order. This is not permissible…we are only concerned with preserving the court’s order and dignity. To say you want to protest peacefully is one thing, but to come out openly in defiance of a Supreme Court judgment is quite another. We are only concerned about preserving the honour of the Supreme Court… and, mind you, there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about that.”