Jallikattu — the legal story

After being inundated with posts, videos and pictures all over the social media and WhatsApp, most of which are nothing but a cultural rhetoric and victimisation of Tamil Nadu’s culture, it begs the question- What really went on in the court?

What this post is?

Combing through culture-protective Facebook posts and animal-loving posts, I realized not one person had any clue as to what really went on in the court except the verdict which was to ban Jallikattu. Completely oblivious to the legal proceedings, these posts went on to either enrage the uninformed Tamil audience or melt the heart of the animal lovers with no substantial backing. I figured it might be a good idea to write a concise blog post highlighting the various acts and course of legal arguments that were put forth during these proceedings. Simply put, you can consider this post as a super-laconic layman version of the legal proceedings. I have attempted to keep my biases out of this, however, my ineptness to process legal language might factor in. If that be the case, I urge the reader, if the reader has any legal qualification, to point the errors out, which will be edited in the next draft of this post. In addition, I have also attempted to keep this post as exhaustive as possible, giving links to the necessary Acts and Proceeding transcripts that might come in handy for the reader at any point of time. I assume you have some backing as to what Jallikattu is and the current state of affairs in Tamil Nadu because I would skipping those parts and focus primarily on the Acts and Legal Proceedings.

What this post is not?

This post is not to showcase my opinions or views about the Jallikattu ban. Neither is this post a legal opinion from the author, primary reason being the author is not a lawyer but an yet-another engineer MBA grad who will not become a photographer later in his life.

Chapter -1 Lock and Load

First step to understanding the proceedings, there are two Acts that come into play — Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act of 2009 (TNJR) and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 (PCA). The entire legal proceedings revolve around these two Acts.

Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act of 2009 (TNJR) was enacted by the State of Tamil Nadu to regulate the traditional Jallikattu and ensure mechanisms through which cruelty to bulls can be limited or done away with. In addition to the various clauses explaining the permissions to be taken from the District Collector and the ensuing permission-trails, the key part of the Act that would be interest to us are,

Regarding the safety of bulls

(vi) ensure that the bulls are put to proper testing by the authorities of the Animal Husbandry Department to ensure that performance enhancement drugs are not administered to the bulls in any form and shall obtain a certificate to this effect in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed — Section 4 (vi)
(iv) ensure that the bulls are free of any diseases and not intoxicated or administered with any substance like nicotine, cocaine with the object of making them more aggressive or ferocious with the assistance of the Animal Husbandry Department; Section 5 (iv)

Regarding the safety of spectators

(iii) double-barricade the arena or the way through which the bulls pass through, in order to avoid injuries to the spectators and by-standers who may be permitted to remain within the barricades; Section 4 (iii)

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 was enacted by the Govt. of India to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or exploiting them through coercive methods with an intention that the very existence of animals is for human gains. At the very heart of the conflict, TNJR was in direct contradiction to specific parts of the PCA act. Nothing to fret, the sections are fairly obvious and self-explanatory. However for the sake of completeness, I shall mention them here.

Duties of persons having charge of animals : It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering. — Section 3, PCA, 1960
If any person beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated; Section 11 (1) (a), PCA, 1960
If any person confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object or prey for any other animal solely for purpose of entertainment. Section 11 (1) (m), PCA, 1960

In 2011, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) issued a directive specifically including bulls to be banned from exhibition and performance, in accordance with Section 22 of PCA which is as follows,

22. Restriction on exhibition and training of performing animals. — No person shall exhibit or train —
(i) any performing animal unless he is registered in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter;
(ii) as a performing animal, any animal which the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify as an animal which shall not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal.

Bulls have been recognized as Draught and Pack Animals which basically means they are primarily to be used for agriculture, pulling loads, ploughing, transportation etc. The act prohibits the use of whip or stick on the bull while being employed for these purposes.

Chapter 2 — Contradictions

TNJR is an Act enacted by the State Govt. of Tamil Nadu while PCA is an Act enacted by the Govt. of India. This might beg the question — how is the Centre meddling in the affairs of the State? The question has been brought up in the cultural rhetorics as well. However, to understand the legal backing for that, we need to know more about the Concurrent List.

Concurrent List

As per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, there would be three lists — Union List, State List and Concurrent List. The Union List is a list of 100 items over which the Parliament has exclusive power to legislate. However, in Concurrent List, simply put, both the Center and State can interfere. The Concurrent List has 47 items out of which ‘Protection of wild animals and birds’ (17B) is one of them. This gives the Centre the legal right to interfere in the workings of TNJR.

All this is fine, but what happened between TNJR and PCA?

To put it simply again, TNJR is in direct contradiction to PCA. In legal terms, it is called Repugnancy.

Repugnancy between the Parliamentary Legislation and State Legislation arises in two ways:

i) Where the legislations, though enacted with respect to the matters in their allotted sphere, overlap conflict and

ii) Where two legislations are with respect to the same matters in the concurrent list and there is a conflict.

If there exists any contradiction, the law made by Parliament would prevail over the Legislature of the State and the legislature of the state would be void to the extent of the repugnancy.

Chapter 3- Okay, but what really happened?

Having understood the various acts, it would be good idea to look at the various highlights from the 106 page court proceedings from the case Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) vs A Nagaraja and others (May 7, 2014). In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of notification that Jallikattu and Bullock-cart race in Maharashtra violate Section 3, 11 (1) (a) and 11 (1)(m)(ii) of PCA, 1960. In addition, the court also found TNJR is repugnant to PCA and deems it unconstitutional and void. If you would like to know legal timeline, this article might be of interest to you.

Radhakrishnan J, delves deep into animal psychology and anatomy while describing ground as to why Jallikattu must be banned. While the entire article is large, I have compiled few interesting snippets from the arguments.

Bulls (Bos Indicus) are herbivores, prey by nature adopted to protest themselves when threatened engaging in a ‘flight response’, that is run away stimulus, which they find when threatening.
Bulls exhibit a fight or flight response when exposed to a perceived threat. Bulls are more likely to flee than fight, and in most cases they fight, when agitated…
During Jallikattu, many animals are observed to engage in a flight response as they try to run away from arena when they experience fear or pain, but cannot do this, since the area is completely enclosed. Jallikattu demonstrates a link between actions of humans and the fear, distress and pain experienced by bulls.

To truly understand the level of cruelty exhibited on these bulls, here are the cruelty mentioned in the proceedings. While the proceeding goes into entire detail of the cruelty, for our current purpose, the list would suffice.

  1. Cutting ear of the bull
  2. Fracture and Dislocation of Tail Bones
  3. Frequent Urination and Defecation
  4. Biting bull’s tail
  5. Twisting bull’s tail
  6. Poking bull with knives and sticks
  7. Usage of Irritant solution and liquor
  8. Usage of Nose ropes
  9. Lack of food and water
  10. Forced to move sideways
  11. Confinement for prolonged time

All this is fine, but what about Tamil Culture and Tradition?

Jallikattu is a Tamil word, which comes from the term “Callikattu”, where “Calli” means coins and “Kattu” means a package. Jallikattu refers to silver or gold coins tied on the bulls’ horns. People, in the earlier time, used to fight to get at the money placed around the bulls’ horns which depicted as an act of bravery. Later, it became a sport conducted for entertainment and was called “Yeruthu Kattu”, in which a fast moving bull was corralled with ropes around its neck. Started as a simple act of bravery, later, assumed different forms and shapes like Jallikattu (in the present form), Bull Race etc., which is based on the concept of flight or fight. Jallikattu includes Manjuvirattu, Oormaadu, Vadamadu, Erudhu, Vadam, Vadi and all such events involve taming of bulls.

The argument was as follows,

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the TNRJ Act refers to ancient culture and tradition and does not state that it has any religious significance. Even the ancient culture and tradition do not support the conduct of Jallikattu or Bullock cart race, in the form in which they are being conducted at present.

Chapter 4- Conclusion

To sum it up, I believe I have done my best to showcase the legal backdrop of this case which has almost lost its legal image and has gained more of a politico-cultural image and made it a fight of Center vs South. Some arguments spoke about animal cruelty taking place in rest of the country, while the Supreme Court is singling out Tamil Nadu alone.

During the course of the research for this article, my opinions swung between extremities from keeping the culture alive to ban the god-damn sport. However, to avoid tainting the readers’ opinion with my biases, I have attempted to keep it neutral and solely from a legal standpoint. If this article helped you understand the legal backdrop of this issue a bit more than before, I think I have achieved what I set out for.