Saturday, 9 January 2016

Centre Overrules Supreme Court Observation on Jallikattu Citing Culture


On Friday, January 8, 2016, the Indian government at the centre revoked the apex court-endorsed ban on Jallikattu, which is a sports event in Tamil Nadu. Along with this, the central government also allowed in principle the bullock cart race in the states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Haryana, Gujarat, etc. This move is seen by many as the steps taken by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to appease All India Anna Dravida Munnreta Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu where the party has no presence. Incidentally, the state is going to the polls sometime in the next year. Many in the country have denounced this move as these sports promote the cruelty to animals, which is against the principled view of the apex court. However, the political parties like BJP and Indian National Congress (INC) have made only muted response to this move due to the political stakes they have in states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.


New Notification

Citing culture, the BJP-led government at the centre has decided to bring back the performing sports like Jallikattu and bullock cart race. On January 8, 2016, the central government brought certain amendments to the law to permit the performing sports using animals. The political parties of Tamil Nadu have been lobbying for the lifting of the ban for some time.  This revised notification has been issued just in time before the commencement of Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu. The present notification permits Jallikattu and the bullock cart races in the country. The move by the centre overlooking the advice given by the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi against the amendment in light of the Supreme Court ruling has the political overtones. While retaining the general prohibition on the use of certain animals, this new notification subjects the conduction of these performing sports to the permission of local administration based on certain conditions. The local authorities have to ensure that these sport activities are conducted at appropriate places and the bull released is tamed within the radial distance of 15 metres from the enclosure.


Timing of New Notification

The move is considered by many as the appeasement by the ruling dispensation to win the hearts of the Tamil regional parties like Dravida Munretta Kazhagam (DMK) and the AIADMK. The saffron party BJP does not have any presence in Tamil Nadu. The think tank of the saffron party wants to open its account in this state with the help of any of these parties. There has been widespread political opinion in that state in favour of the Jallikattu. That is the main reason why the NDA government at the centre has conceded to their demand.  There is also pressure from the western state of Maharashtra to restore the bullock cart race. The union Environment Minister Prakash Javedkar hails from this state. He also might have put pressures on the central government to revoke this performing sport. The political reaction to this new development is rather muted as they wanted to tread cautiously on this issue due to the political stakes involved. They crafted their response both in support of the safety of people and animals and the tradition.

bullock cart race

Landmark Legislation on Animal Rights

The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Indian National Congress (INC) had brought a landmark legislation banning all types of sports in the country that harm the health and well beings of animals in 2011. When certain parties from the state of Tamil Nadu raised the objection in the apex court, citing the quashing of the order by the state high court, the division bench hearing the petition chose to endorse the ruling in 2014, upholding the rights of animals to live in dignity just like human beings. At that time, barring the people from the states of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, all other parties, including political parties, welcomed the decision by the apex court. According to this law, the exhibition, training the creatures and using them as performing animals is prohibited.  The animals that come under the ambit of law include bulls, bears, tigers, monkeys, panthers and lions.  Effectively, this legislation brought an end to the performing sports that have been organized in different parts of the country during various festivals. This move by the centre was hailed by the animal right activists in the country.

supreme court

Thuruvananthapuram Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India