Jallikattu: Constitution Bench to decide the constitutionality of the TN Amendments to Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

Supreme Court: In the petition seeking compliance of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547,  in the light of the cruelty to Bulls in the Jallikattu event, the bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and RF Nariman, J referred the matter to a 5-judge Constitution bench as it noticed that the writ petitions involve substantial questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution of India. The present petitions challenge the validity of the Tamil Nadu Amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The issues placed before the Constitution Bench are as follows:

  1. Is the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act referable, in pith and substance, to Entry 17, List III of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, or does it further and perpetuate cruelty to animals; and can it, therefore, be said to be a measure of prevention of cruelty to animals? Is it colourable legislation which does not relate to any Entry in the State List or Entry 17 of the Concurrent List?
  2. 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 of India?
  3. Is the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act, in pith and substance, to ensure the survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls? Is the Act, in pith and substance, relatable to Article 48 of the Constitution of India?
  4. Does the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act go contrary to Articles 51A(g) and 51A(h), and could it be said, therefore, to be unreasonable and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India?
  5. Is the impugned Tamil Nadu Amendment Act directly contrary to the Nagaraja judgment, and the review judgment dated 16th November, 2016 in the aforesaid case, and whether the defects pointed out in the aforesaid two judgments could be said to have been overcome by the Tamil Nadu Legislature by enacting the impugned Tamil Nadu Amendment Act?

The present bench had earlier, via order dated 16.11.2016 in Chief Secretary to the Govt., Chennai Tamilnadu v. Animal Welfare Board, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1397, said that there was no connection or association of Jallikattu, a festival involving bull race, with the right of freedom of religion in Article 25. It said:

“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.”

In the A. Nagaraj Judgment, it was held that Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu or bullock cart races. The bench of KSP Radhakrishnan and PC Ghose, JJ had the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 was repugnant to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act) and had hence, issued a number of directions to ensure the compliance of the PCA Act. [Animal Welfare Board of India v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 66, order dated 02.02.2018]

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