The Supreme Court on Tuesday countered Tamil Nadu’s portrayal of jallikattu as an “age-old tradition” practised far and wide in the State, saying child marriage was also once an “age-old tradition” before being declared a crime.
The observation from a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F. Nariman came as senior advocate Shekhar Naphade for Tamil Nadu pushed for a larger Bench to hear its plea for lifting an apex court stay on a January 7, 2016 notification allowing the exhibition and use of bulls for Jallikattu and bullock-cart races despite an express ban from the apex court in a judgment in 2014.
The Bench responded that it would consider the plea for a larger Bench after hearing preliminary arguments on constitutionality of the January notification. The case has been adjourned to August 23.
Moving the Supreme Court in March, Tamil Nadu argued that if the Spanish Senate can in 2013 find the “far more cruel” sport of bull-fighting a cultural heritage, there is nothing wrong in farmers practising Jallikattu in the semi-arid regions of Tamil Nadu.
The apex court stay ordered on January 12 came on a batch of petitions filed by various NGOs such as Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India and Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations in the Supreme Court.
In an earlier hearing on Tuesday, the Bench had given the Centre more time to file their reply to the petitions and posted the case in July.
The 22-page counter-affidavit filed by the State delves into religious mythology, the National Freedom Struggle, the “heroic powers” of youths and how bulls, like deer, are accustomed to running.
For one, the affidavit claimed that Jallikattu “traces its origins to Indus Valley civilisation” and there are terracotta tablets which prove it.
The State then said that ‘Jalli’ is the name of a “Yadav brave man with history dating back to the period of Lord Krishna”.
“Bull-baiting figures in the Mahabharata also describe Krishna controlling a ferocious bull in the forecourt of Kamsa’s palace,” Tamil Nadu government said. The affidavit also finds links from both ancient Tamil literature and Sangam era “and beyond”.
It said of how rural Tamil Nadu reacted to the Supreme Court’s stay with a “deep sense of shock, disappointment and sadness” before turning to global events to support their arguments in favour of Jallikattu.
Tamil Nadu contended why Jallikattu is illegal when bull-fighting, where the animal is killed, has been given constitutional protection as part of cultural heritage.
“The bloody sport of bull fighting which is far more cruel and involves the killing of the bull is legal in at least eight countries including liberal and democratic countries like France,” the State government argued.
It said Jallikattu inculcates martial spirit. “Youth who have traditionally taken part in Jallikattu have also been at the forefront of the armed struggle against the British,” it said.
Countering arguments that bull is a domesticated bovine animal, the State compared it to other cloven-footed animal who can run like deer. It said a bull spends less than 30 seconds in the arena.
The State said Jallikattu bulls do not experience fear as they have been reared in a “village atmosphere”.
Keywords: Jallikattu, bull fighting, jallikattu ban, Tamil Nadu politics