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A few hours after the President gave his assent on Tuesday to the Tamil Nadu amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty Act of 1960 to allow jallikattu, the Supreme Court refused to stay the new State law.
Allowing the Central government to withdraw its January 7, 2016 notification permitting Jallikattu, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F. Nariman declined NGO Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) the relief of an interim stay on the operation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017. It asked the organisation and other animal rights activists the "basis" of their challenge to the new State law.
Referring to the amendments made by the Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly to the 1960 Central Act, Justice Misra pointed out that the declared object of the new legislation is the preservation of a particular breed of bulls.
“They say that the new law is for the preservation of a variety of bulls… they call it (Jallikattu) a culture. This has to be debated on,” Justice Misra observed.
“The basis of our challenge is that the State has violated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960,” senior advocate Siddharth Luthra for CUPA submitted.
Countering the allegation, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, referred to Article 29 (1) of the Indian Constitution which mandates that citizens have the right to take measures to “conserve their culture”.
“Then we have to decide on whether Jallikattu comes within the ambit of ‘culture’ meant in Article 29 (1) and whether this kind of a sport or event or activity is safe… Conservation of a culture should not involve inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering to animals,” Justice Misra responded.
Mr. Rohatgi then referred to Section 11 (3) (e) of the 1960 Act which permits slaughtering of animals for food for mankind.
“If Jallikattu is cruelty, what about slaughtering of animals? Slaughtering is done not only for food but also in the name of religion… halaal and sacrifices of goats, etc... The 1960 Act, which is a Special Act, exempts slaughter for food despite the fact that Article 48 prohibits slaughter” the Attorney-General argued.
“Mr. Rohatgi, slaughtering for food comes within the purview of Doctrine of Necessity. Section 11 (3) (e) permits slaughter for food but also mandates that the animal should be killed without inflicting upon it unnecessary pain and suffering,” Justice Misra observed.
“All I am saying is that the court should consider the preservation and conservation of a culture in a holistic manner,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.
The court’s permission for the Centre to withdraw its January 7 notification has now rendered infructuous the batch of writ petitions filed by several NGOs and other animal rights organisations against the notification last year.
The interlocutory applications filed by the NGOs against the new Tamil Nadu law were part of their 2016 writ petitions.
The Bench has given them two weeks' time to file fresh writ petitions challenging the Tamil Nadu State amendments of 2017. Tamil Nadu government and others supporting Jallikattu in the current litigation were given four weeks to file their counter affidavits.
Noting that law and order has primacy in a civilised society, the Supreme Court passed scathing remarks about how the Tamil Nadu government handled days of violence that erupted across the State amidst massive public protests favouring the bull-taming event.
The court said the violence and holding of Jallikattu events across Tamil Nadu tantamounted to sheer defiance of the apex court's A. Nagaraja judgment of 2014 banning Jallikattu.
Tamil Nadu government lawyers, led by senior advocate K. Parasaran, maintained that the protests were peaceful and was an evocation of the public's wish for a new Jallikattu law.
"Don't the people have a fundamental right to protest?" senior advocate N. Vaidyanathan asked the court.
"To say you want to protest peacefully is one thing, but to come out in defiance of a Supreme Court judgment (A. Nagaraja verdict banning Jallikattu) is quite another," Justice Rohinton Nariman shot back.
"The whole thing was peaceful, suddenly something happened," Mr. Parasaran reasoned.
To this, Justice Misra retorted: "Mr. Parasaran, we are now governed by the concept of rule of law. Something like this suddenly does not happen... should not happen. Mr. Parasaran, please tell your State Executive, law and order has primacy in a civilised society. When the Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the Constitution, is seized of the matter, there should be complete obeisance and compliance."
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, also for Tamil Nadu, said there was no breach of the Nagaraja judgment of 2014. He submitted that no Jallikattu event was held until the ordinance was issued recently.
"Don't the people have any right to protest anymore? People were saying amend the law. The legislature cannot turn a deaf ear to public wishes," Mr. Dwivedi submitted.
"We are only concerned about preserving the honour of the Supreme Court... and, mind you, there are no 'ifs' and 'buts' about that," Justice Nariman responded.
Justice Misra pointed out how four people had died in Jallikattu events.
"People die in every game. A cricketer died in Delhi, that does not mean we stop cricket," Mr. Rohatgi snapped back.
At this point, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, an intervenor in the Jallikattu litigation, spoke up that Tamil Nadu government's submission that there was no violence is false.
"They are wrong to say there was no violence. A police station was burnt and in Pudukottai, Jallikattu events were held in defiance of the Supreme Court ban," Mr. Swamy submitted.
"Yes. That is exactly what we are saying here," Justice Nariman responded to Mr. Swamy's submission.
Source: Outlook India