Supreme Court allows Tamil Nadu’s bull-taming sport Jallikattu

Youths try to tame a bull during the Jallikattu festival in Tamil Nadu.

In a significant verdict, the Supreme Court of India has upheld the validity of the law passed by the Tamil Nadu government, allowing the continuation of Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport. The five-judge Constitution bench, comprising Justice K M Joseph, Justice Ajay Rastogi, Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, and Justice CT Ravikumar, delivered the judgment, affirming the cultural and heritage significance of Jallikattu in the state.

Jallikattu, also known as “Eruthazhuvuthal,” is a centuries-old sport celebrated during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal. Contestants engage in a competitive attempt to tame bulls, showcasing their skill and honoring bull owners who rear them for mating. However, legal battles surrounding animal rights emerged in the 1990s, leading to petitions against Jallikattu. In 2014, the Supreme Court banned the sport, citing cruelty concerns.

Key Points

  1. Jallikattu holds cultural and spiritual significance in Tamil Nadu and has been part of the state’s heritage for over 2,000 years. It serves as an event to honor bull owners and protect male animals used for breeding and plowing. The Animal Welfare Board of India and animal rights group PETA filed petitions against Jallikattu in the Supreme Court, leading to a ban on the sport in 2014. However, the Tamil Nadu government passed a law in 2009 to circumvent the ban. The Tamil Nadu government released an ordinance in 2017, amending the central Act, and allowing Jallikattu. This move faced opposition from animal rights organizations, including PETA, who argued that it was unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Verdict:

  1. Preservation of Cultural Heritage: The Constitution bench acknowledged the legislature’s view that Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage and declared it as such in the preamble of the law. The court upheld the state’s law, respecting the legislature’s decision.
  2. Validity of State Laws: The bench confirmed the validity of laws passed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, allowing sports involving animals, including Jallikattu and bullock cart races. The court emphasized the importance of strictly implementing these laws to minimize cruelty to animals.

Tamil Nadu Law Minister, Thiru S Regupathy, hailed the Supreme Court’s judgment as historic and a legal victory for the state. He assured that the sport would be conducted without cruelty towards animals. Chief Minister M.K Stalin welcomed the verdict, highlighting the cultural and spiritual significance of Jallikattu.

With this ruling, Jallikattu will continue to be celebrated as an integral part of Tamil Nadu’s rich cultural heritage, ensuring the preservation of a centuries-old tradition that holds deep meaning for the people of the state.

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