Mrudula Mohan




India is a country with vast divergence of customs and practices most of them can have a direct influence upon the eco-system. Customs areconsidered as a vital sources of law though not all customs gets legal recognition, some may even be against morality. Steps would be taken by the government and judiciary to eradicate such practices from the society. This is one of such cases where the government and judiciary had taken steps to regulate and restrict such a practice. Certainly, one cannot take a blind step completely neglecting the emotional attachments of the public which could lead to unrest among the society. The judgement has proved to be a milestone in the perseverance of culture and the safety of the animals. The issues in consideration of the case include a challenge over the Madras High Court judgement on validating the Tamil Nadu Regulation of JallikattuAct (hereafter TNRJ Act) and, challenge against the Bombay High Court Judgement validating the 2011 notification whereby bulls were added to the list of prohibitory performing animals.

Both, Jallikattu and Rekla race are represented as a sport for bravery which uses trained bulls and participants in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively. The contention filed by the activists stated these bulls are subjected to immense cruelty before sending them to the arena. This is said to be a reason for the violent behaviours in the animals and the cause of deaths and injuries during the game. The Madras High Court in 2006 thus banned both the games Jallikattu and rekla race. This judgement was upheld by the Supreme Court bench. Interim orders were passed by the court thereafter till 2014 so much as permitting the sports until the judgement which strictly banning the sports was held. This judgement not only banned the game but have also strengthen the rights guaranteed under Sections 3 and 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (hereafter PCA Act) and Articles 51A (g) & (h), And instructed the government to protect and safeguard the freedoms of animals and follow the procedure laid down under S. 22 PC Act. After the TNRJ Act came into force, the Act was challenged under Art 32 of the constitution. Where the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the Madras High Court which validated the Amended TNRJ Act, 2009 and held the Act as unconstitutional and violation of PCA Act and upheld the judgment of Bombay High Court which validated the Ministry of Environment and Forest (hereafter MoEF) notification of 2011 including bulls in the list of animals prohibited from being trained. The matter was again considered for review in 2016.


A SLP was filed by Animal Welfare Board of India (hereinafter AWBI) and People for Ethical Treatment for Animals (hereafter PETA) in the said case against the A.Nagaraja (father of one deceased participant) and other 11 petitioners.


The petition was initially filed in Madras High Court as a writ of Mandamus[2] under Art 226 and in 2007 the division bench consisting of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja reversed the previous judgement. SLPs were filed in Supreme Court under Art.136[3], Art 133[4], Art 142[5] and Art. 32[6] against the judgement and the bench headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan granted the leave.


Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu and Bullock cart racing of Maharashtra were being practised for over 2500 and 450 years respectively. The term Jallikattu refers to silver or gold coins tied on the bulls’ horns. In Tamil Nadu, it is a sport played on the third day of Pongal. On this day a running bull is released into a crowd, where participants either, grab and ride on the bull to calm him, or take the flag attached in the bull’s horn[7]. The bulls which perform well in this game are used for breeding and they are said to fetch a high price in the market. Similarly, rekla race of Maharashtra is organised after Makara Sankaranthi, on Chaitra Astami. On this day various cart owners organise bullock cart race where bullock carts run miles and the winning team are rewarded.

The roller coaster of this bull game controversy in India started in 2004 Indian Humanitarian League and Blue Cross of India to the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state legislature filed a petition to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls. Though Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla in his judgement permitted the “sport” with a rider, upon the health of the bull.  In 2006 the Madras High Court bench consisting of Justice R. Banumathi and Pinki Chandra Ghose, by expanding the scope on a writ of mandamus[8] filed against a police officer for omission of his duty to grant permission for conducting the game held a judgement in accordance with the 1996 judgement of Bombay High Court, thereby banning to conduct all games involving harsh training of animals. This strengthened the then PCA Act, 1960. Whereas in 2007 the division bench[9] consisting of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja applied the principle harmonious construction, permitting the game with some regulatory measures to ensure the safety of the animals.

The apex court in 2008 granted permission for conducting rekla race by limiting the race field distance to 15m radius. The Tamil Nadu government passed TNRJ Act which overrides the previous judgement. Organisations such as AWBI and PETA filed a writ petition challenging the Division Bench Judgment on the basis of PCA Act, MoEF Notification 2011. Another set of SLPs was filed against the Bombay High Court judgement upholding the MoEF Notification 2011 and the corrigendum issued by the Government prohibiting exhibition and training of animals. The court held the final judgement holding these games violation of S. 5 to S.11 of the PCA Act and fundamental duties, under Art 51A (g) and (h)[10]of the Constitution.


The parties sought the court to hold that TNRJ Act was Ultra Virus to PC Act and the game and the notification are inappropriate to the social morality, constitution and protection of animals.


The appellants contended that the game exposes the animal to immense physical and mental cruelty which is against Art.51A (g) and Art. 21[11] in addition to being in violation to S.3 and 11 of PCA Act and also stated that the TNRJ Act doesn’t have the effect of a law since the President has not given assent it.


The respondent argued that the game was conducted during the days of a particular festival as a custom in practice for years. Proper care has been taken by the organisers and the owners, for whom it is a means of livelihood. They also stated that they ensure its safety and no such cruelty as being argued, showed and mentioned under S.11(1)(a) are being committed. In furtherance of which it was also proved that procedure and the game is being conducted in presence of collectors, doctors and police officials etc to ensure prohibition of such cruelty. These apprehensions were meet by TNRJ Act. It was also argued by the state that non-applicability of tickets for the event relieves them from being mere human entrainment thus excluding them from the preview of S.22 of PCA Act.

The matter of previous notifications of MoEF was also discussed with reference to N.R. Nair & Others Vs U.O.I[12], where the court formed a committee to discuss the corrigendum of exclusion of dogs from the initial list whereas the same was not done in the present situation.


The Special Leave petition was granted and the case was disposed of, setting aside the Madras High Court order of upholding the TNRJ Act, holding the Act unconstitutional and void, upheld the Bombay High Court judgement validating 2011 notification whereby bulls were included in the list of animals prohibited from being exhibited and trained.


The said judgement not only strengthened the PCA Act, 1960 but also elevated the rights of the animals to that of a fundamental right under Art 21 and imposed strict observance of Art 51-A. The judgement also guaranteed that rights of animals under S.3 and 11 of PCA Act read with Art.51A (g) & (h) should not to be compromised, unless as per S. 11(3) and 28 of PCA Act. Also recommended the state and other authorities to take reasonable steps to ensure the protection of the freedoms.


The judgement, on one hand, was praised as a saviour for animal protection rights, on the other hand, was criticised to not to observe the customary values and practices.‘Though the judgement was appropriate, though it strengthened the wildlife protection laws, though the judgement raised the status of animal right to the level of fundamental rights in the constitution, the court stood blindfolded to opt for other alternative methods and the applicability and benefits of the amended TNRJ Act. The logical reasoning was irrational as pleaded by the prosecutor that “if the court can grant permission for slaughtering animals for religious purposes then why not grant permission to conduct a game which doesn’t possess any threat to their life”.


The right to frame laws on the welfare of agriculture and public health has been a subject matter guaranteed to both State and Union government[13] . The PCA Act was enacted in 1960 for the purpose of guaranteeing the safety of animals and wildlife. In 2009 the TN State government passed TNRJ Act which was argued to be repugnant to the 1960 Act. This entry indirectly implies that such laws cannot be made which could be hazardous, with respect to the purpose of the entry. The pieces of evidence submitted by the AWBI and PETA where cruelty on animals is shown cannot be left blind. The animal which is being taken care so well and trained require an external pressure to force them to behave in such a manner as in the games, which is certainly in direct conflict with the Act. The repugnancy arises only when there is any conflict between both acts and when there is an overlap between the provisions of the Acts. But here the 2009 Act cannot be repugnant to 1960 because the 2009 Act can be viewed as an extension to that of 1960 Act. Although the recent act permits the exhibition and training of animals, prohibited in the 1960 Act. But the Act provides strict regulation over the rules and health of the bulls.


The game is a cruel not only towards the animals but also towards participants and spectators. The increase in the number of deaths and injured while conducting the game cannot be ignored. The responsibility of State is much wider. State has to ensure public health and maintain public interest at the same time. Thus the game which can have a negative impact on the health and safety of the public cannot be encouraged even if the public at large consider it as part of their identity.

Art 19 (1) (g) which gives the public right to practice, profess and carry any occupation trade or business as their fundamental right also forbids the state or other authorities to force any citizen to practice a particular profession or to forbid them from performing certain profession. Accordingly, the farmers who consider and bring up the animal with a sole purpose of participating them for the game would lose interest in the same and this would lead them to butcher houses. Though banning the sports could end the physical and mental torments faced by the bulls it would also mark an end for their caretaking and might as well leads to their extinction. This is against the Biodiversity Act, 2002.


The Court laid down the aspects of Article 51-A (g) and (h), Fundamental Duties on the part of the citizens and extended the scope of Art. 21 to the animals. It is indeed an ‘Unhealthy sport’with due consideration on the number of people being injured and getting died every year during the event. But what makes the youth, who are educated and professionals, so attached to a practice that is unhealthy, and come down on streets for protest when the judgement on its review petition was being postponed. According to some of the protester and the videos in circulation at the time, they refer everything as a part of long chain conspiracy. “EDUCATED ILLITERATES” was the name labelled upon the higher dignitaries referring the game dangerous and/or outrageous. Supporting the culture they call it safer for the bulls, unlike the custom of Spain bull fights neither the horns are set on fire nor do they insert burning sword through them, taming a running bull or getting a coin thread from them are the only objective of the game. And so the game though is unhealthy, not inhuman. As said by Mahatma Gandhi “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Treating an animal with cruelty for its existence doesn’t make an ideal methodology. But instead regulation is better.

[1]Judgement of 2014, AWBI v. A Nagaraj (2014) 7 SCC 547.

[2]K. MuniasamyThevar v. Deputy Superintendent Of Police.

[3]VN  Shukla,2015, Constitution of India, 12th Ed. p. 534.

[4]VN Shukla, 2015, Constitution of India, 12th Ed, p.524.

[5]JN Pandey, 2015, Constitutional Law of India, 52th Ed, p. 554.

[6]Bakshi, 2016, Constitution of India, 13th Ed, Lexis Nexis, p. 98

[7]Mohamed, history of Jallikattu Tamil Nadu, behest (2010).

[8]K. MuniasamyThevar V/S Deputy Superintendent Of Police.

[9]Mohamed Imranullah, A tussle between judges and jallikattu supporters on who cares more for bulls, Hindu(2016).

[10]VN  Shukla,2015, Constitution of India, 12th Ed, p. 387.

[11] VN  Shukla,2015, Constitution of India, 12th Ed,p. 227.

[12]NR Nair and ors v.UOI, AIR 2000 Ker 340, (2001) 6 SCC 84.

[13]The Constitution of India, Schedule VII, List III, entry 17.

About the author: Mrudula is a third-year student at Amity Law School, Noida.

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