Jallikattu & issues surrounding the sport


    In News

    • A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court recently reserved for judgment a batch of petitions seeking to strike down the law that protects Jallikattu.

    More about the news

    • Precursor:
      • In 2014, the Supreme Court, in the A. Nagaraja judgment had held Jallikattu as cruelty to bulls.
    • Issue:
      • The bone of contention is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and the 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.
    • Examining the relevant laws:
      • The primary question involved was whether Jallikattu should be granted constitutional protection as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1).
      • 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 Bench also heard parties on whether the new Jallikattu laws were “relatable” to Article 48 of the Constitution.
    • Apex Court’s action:
      • Supreme Court reserved the judgment claiming that the bull-taming sport is a cultural heritage of the State and is protected under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.

    About Jallikattu

    • Jallikattu is a bull-taming sport that has traditionally been part of the festival of Pongal
    • The festival is a celebration of nature, and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, of which cattle worship is part.
    • Contests in Avaniapuram, Peelamedu, and Alanganallur, villages neighbouring Madurai, set the tone for the season, which continues until April.
    • How is it played?
      • The elite Jallikattu breeds test the strength and guile of farm hands in especially-constructed arenas. 
      • It is a violent sport, and there is only one winner, man or bull. 
    • Arguments in favour of the sport:
      • The political economy of Jallikattu: 
        • It is about showcasing the quality of cattle, the breeding skills of cattle rearers, the centrality of cattle in an agrarian economy, and the power and pride they bring to farmers and land-owning castes in rural Tamil Nadu. 
        • Jallikattu is a cultural manifestation of this political economy.
      • Act of cultural resistance to an urban modernity:
        • For agrarian communities like Thevars and Maravars, Jallikattu is one of the few markers of their social standing and identity in a fast-changing world. 
        • The contest, which evidently celebrates masculinity, is almost an act of cultural resistance to an urban modernity that tends to marginalise rural and agrarian values.
    • Arguments against the sport:
      • Harming both, bulls & humans:
        • The practice of Jallikattu has long been contested, with animal rights groups and the courts concerned over issues of cruelty to animals and the bloody and dangerous nature of the sport that causes death and injuries to both the bulls and human participants.
      • Apex Court’s view & the Upanishadic wisdom:
        • In 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, “over-shadows or overrides the so-called tradition and culture”. 
        • The court drew upon Upanishadic wisdom and advised Parliament to “elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights so as to protect their dignity and honour”.
        • “Bulls are beaten, poked, prodded, harassed and jumped on by numerous people. They have their tails bitten and twisted and their eyes and noses filled with irritating chemicals,” the judgment said.
    • Statutory provisions:
      • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Tamil Nadu Amendment Act 2017:
        • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017. 
        • An Act to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 so as to preserve the cultural heritage of the State of Tamil Nadu and to ensure the survival and wellbeing of the native breeds of bulls.
      • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 also recognised the culture and traditions of the people as a fundamental right.

    Way ahead

    • Governments at the state and Centre have wrestled with formulating a regulatory mechanism for Jallikattu, and a matter relating to whether Tamil Nadu can conserve it as a cultural right under Article 29(1) of the Constitution.
    • Tradition and culture are not immune to change. But it is facile to argue that the rights discourse can be conducted ignoring the cultural context. 

    Constitutional provisions protecting animal rights in India

    • Article 21:
      • Under Article 21 of the Constitution, the expression ‘life’ has been expanded to include all forms of life including animal life which is essential for human life. Moreover, the Right to Dignity and fair treatment is also significant to animal rights.
    • 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.
    • Article 48 
      • Article 48 of the Constitution of India is one of the Directive Principles which directs the state to make efforts for banning animal slaughtering of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. 
      • It further states to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines.
    • Article 51 A (g):
      • Article 51 A (g) states that every citizen has a fundamental duty to safeguard and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and animals as well as to have compassion for living creatures.
      • This Constitutional provisions were introduced by the 42nd amendment in 1976.