Jallikattu festival involving bull race has no connection with the right of freedom of religion in Article 25

Supreme Court: Stating that there is no connection or association of Jallikattu, a festival involving bull race, with the right of freedom of religion in Article 25, the Court said that the Tamil Nadu State Legislature could not have enacted any law like the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as when a bull is “tamed” for the purpose of an event, the fundamental concept runs counter to the welfare of the animal which is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. There is a frontal collision and apparent inconsistency between the PCA Act and the 2009 Act.

Rejecting the argument by the State of Tamil Nadu that every festival has the root in the religion and when Jallikattu is an event that takes place after harvest, it has the religious flavor and such an ethos cannot be disregarded, the bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ said that it is inconceivable that a bull which is a domestic animal should be tamed for entertainment and a wide ground can be put forth that it is not a ticketed show, but meant for celebrating the festival of harvest. Such a celebration for giving pleasure to some, both the participating and the people watching it is such an act that is against the welfare of animals and definitely amount to treating the animal with cruelty.

It was also argued that the 2009 Act falls under Entries 14 and 15 of List II of the VIIth Schedule of the Constitution and, therefore, the test of validity cannot be on repugnancy, the Court rejected the argument and said that solely because the event takes place after the harvest, it cannot be associated with agriculture. As far as Entry 15 is concerned, it provides for preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice. The Entry is meant to confer power on the State Legislature to legislate with regard to the preservation, protection and improvement of stock and preventing any kind of animal diseases. Hence, neither Entry 14 nor Entry 15 would cover the 2009 Act.  The activity Jallikattu falls squarely within Entry 17 of List III and, therefore, it has to be tested on the anvil of repugnancy. [Chief Secretary to the Govt., Chennai Tamilnadu v. Animal Welfare Board, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1397, decided on 16.11.2016]

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