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Monday, December 5, 2022

‘If animals can’t make choice, can they have liberty?’: SC bench headed by Justice KM Joseph during hearing on pleas against Jallikattu

The Supreme Court on Thursday while hearing petitions challenging a Tamil Nadu law allowing ‘jallikattu’, queried if the animals cannot make a choice, can they have liberty?

Some of the petitioners, who have challenged the Tamil Nadu law, contended before a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice K.M. Joseph that perpetuating cruelty cannot be permitted and the bull-taming sport leads to injuries and even fatalities of animals as well as humans.

Jallikattu is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C.T. Ravikumar, is considering five questions, which was referred to it in February 2018, by a two-judge bench of the apex court.

One of the questions referred to the five-judge bench reads: “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?”

The bench, during the hearing, noted that the Act seeks to prevent cruelty to animals, and cited boxing and fencing, which might lead to injuries.

Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing petitioners in three separate pleas, said it is about choice and a lack of choice and added that when one enters any sports wilfully, the possibility of injury exists but the person has taken a conscious decision.

At this juncture, the bench asked: “If the animals cannot make a choice, can they have liberty?” Luthra submitted that in reality there are animal fatalities as well as injuries in ‘jallikattu’. He said when someone is inducing fear among animals, it is inherently cruel and cited several provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The five-judge constitution bench commenced hearing arguments on a batch of petitions challenging the Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra laws allowing “jallikattu” and bullock-cart races, respectively. The arguments in the matter will continue on November 29.

Tamil Nadu had amended the central Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to allow jallikattu and this law has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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