New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) Bull-taming sport "jallikattu" leads to injuries and even fatalities of animals as well as humans and something that involves cruelty cannot be allowed, the Supreme Court was told on Thursday.
Jallikattu, also known "eruthazhuvuthal", is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
Some of the petitioners, who have challenged a Tamil Nadu law allowing "jallikattu", argued in the court that perpetuating cruelty cannot be permitted and one cannot have a provision that is destructive of the purpose of a legislation like the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph commenced hearing arguments on a batch of petitions challenging the Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra laws allowing "jallikattu" and bullock-cart races.
"The first issue is, what was the purpose of the legislation and therefore, can you have provisions which are destructive of the purpose....," senior lawyer Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners in three separate pleas filed in the top court, said.
The bench, also comprising justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar, is considering five questions referred to it by a two-judge bench of the apex court in February 2018.
"The Tamil Nadu Amendment Act states that it is to preserve the cultural heritage of the state of Tamil Nadu. Can the impugned Tamil Nadu Amendment Act be stated to be part of the cultural heritage of the people of the state of Tamil Nadu so as to receive the protection of Article 29 of the Constitution?" reads one of the questions referred to the larger bench.
During the hearing, the bench, while observing that the Act seeks to prevent cruelty to animals, referred to sports such as boxing and fencing, which might lead to injuries.
Luthra said it is about choice and a lack of choice.
"When you enter any sports wilfully, it may even be a sport like squash, the possibility of injury exists but you have taken a conscious choice of doing that," he said.
The bench then asked, "If the animals cannot make a choice, can they have liberty?" Luthra said the reality is that there are animal fatalities as well as injuries in "jallikattu".
"There are human fatalities also and year after year, there are reports to that effect that the number of injuries caused both to animals and humans has risen," he said during the arguments that would continue on November 29.
Luthra said when someone is inducing fear among animals, it is inherently cruel.
He referred to several provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
At the outset, one of the advocates appearing in the matter said he has filed an application for framing additional issues and that plea should be taken up first.
He said one of the petitions in the matter has been filed by farmers for the protection of their rights to livelihood and occupation.
"Let us get started," the bench said, adding that it would first deal with the five questions referred to it as at this point, it cannot be expanding the issues.
At the fag end of the hearing, the bench mentioned about the additions being made to the convenience compilation already filed in the matter.
"There should be a Prevention of Cruelty to Judges Act also," Justice Joseph said in a lighter vein.
Referring the issue to the five-judge bench in February 2018, the apex court had said the petitions challenging the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017 need to be decided by a larger bench since those involve substantial questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution.
Framing the questions for the larger bench, the top court had said it needs to be tested if the amendment Act "perpetuates cruelty to animals" and "can it, therefore, be said to be a measure of prevention of cruelty to animals".
It had asked, "Is it colourable legislation which does not relate to any entry in the State List or Entry 17 of the Concurrent List?" The two-judge bench had also framed a question for the larger bench as to whether the amendment Act was directly contrary to the apex court's earlier judgment in the "jallikattu" matter and whether the defects pointed out in the two verdicts "could be said to have been overcome by the Tamil Nadu legislature by enacting the impugned Tamil Nadu Amendment Act".
Tamil Nadu had amended the central law -- the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 -- and allowed "jallikattu" in the southern state. The state law has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
The apex court had earlier dismissed the Tamil Nadu government's plea seeking a review of its 2014 judgment banning the use of bulls for "jallikattu" events in the state and bullock-cart races across the country.
The court had, in its 2014 judgment, said bulls cannot be used as performing animals either for "jallikattu" events or bullock-cart races, and banned their use for these purposes across the country. PTI ABA RC