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Preventing animal cruelty is a duty of the state

  • Published
    4th Jan, 2023

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India will soon deliver its verdict on the validity of Tamil Nadu’s law permitting the practice of jallikattu in the State.

About Jallikattu:
  • A tradition over 2,000 years old, Jallikattu is a competitive sport as well as an event to honour bull owners who rear them for mating.
  • It is a violent sport in which contestants try to tame a bull for a prize; if they fail, the bull owner wins the prize.

Importance in Tamil Culture:

  • Jallikattu is considered a traditional way for the peasant community to preserve their pure-breed native bulls.
  • At a time when cattle breeding is often an artificial process, conservationists and peasants argue that Jallikattu is a way to protect these male animals which are otherwise used only for meat if not for ploughing.

Legal Interventions on Jallikattu:

  • In 2011, the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition are prohibited.
  • In 2014, in Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court declared jallikattu illegitimate.
  • Since then, Tamil Nadu has made efforts to resurrect the sport’s legality.
  • In A. Nagaraja, the court had held that jallikatu, in and by itself, amounted to a violation of the existing provisions of the PCA Act, and the fundamental duty contained in Article 51A(g).
  • Article 51A(g) requires citizens “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
    • The court held, that the effect of this violation, had a direct bearing on the right to life contained in Article 21.

Current Legal Position on Jallikattu:

  • The state government has legalized these events, which have been challenged in court.
  • In 2018, the Supreme Court referred the Jallikattu case to a Constitution Bench, where it is pending now.

Conflict to be Resolved:

  • Whether the Jallikattu tradition can be protected as a cultural right of the people of Tamil Nadu is a fundamental right.
  • Article 29 (1) against the Rights of animals.
  • Article 29 (1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.

Position in Other States for Similar Sports:

  • Karnataka too passed a law to save a similar sport, called ‘Kambala’.
  • Except in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where bull-taming and racing continue to be organized, these sports remain banned in all other states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Maharashtra due to the 2014 ban order from the Supreme Court.

Animal rights and safety:

  • None of the guarantees contained in Part III of the Constitution, which deals with fundamental rights, are explicitly conferred on animals.
  • Therefore, when efforts to legislate on animal welfare were first made, it came from a more elementary ethical precept that it was morally wrong to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on animals.
  • It was with this vision in mind that Parliament enacted the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), in 1960.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), 1960:

  • It discusses different forms of cruelty, exceptions, and killing of a suffering animal in case any cruelty has been committed against it, so as to relieve it from further suffering.
  • This Act provides punishment for causing unnecessary cruelty and suffering to animals. The Act defines animals and different forms of animals.

Shortcomings of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), 1960:

  • While it criminalizes several types of actions that cause cruelty to animals, it exempts, for example, from its coverage the use of animals for experiments with a view to securing medical advancement.
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