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.
“So what if it is 5000-years-old. It cannot be justified in name of tradition,” the Supreme Court snapped the Tamil Nadu government over its plea requesting the apex court to lift the ban over the centuries old bull-taming sport.
“Your argument doesn’t hold any water. In 1899, ten thousand girls, below 12 years of age, were married. Should it be allowed today just because it was tradition then?” Justice Deepak Mishra said.
The court said that it was a “constitutional and statutory issue” and that it would examine whether such a sport was permissible in law or not.
The top court is hearing petitions by animal rights activists against the Centre’s decision early this year to allow the traditional Tamil Nadu bull fight. The court had in January this had stayed a notification issued by the Centre to lift a ban on Jallikattu and had issued a notice to it. Final hearing in the case will begin on 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.
Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport that is popular in Tamil Nadu, was banned by the Supreme Court in May 2014. It had also banned bullock cart races, known locally as ‘rekhla race’. However, in January this year – just months to go before the State was to go for elections – the Centre issued a notification allowing it in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. But the animal rights activists challenged this almost immediately, and the Supreme Court stopped it once again. This is the batch of petitions that is court is seized with now.
The ban came into effect after the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification in July 2011 adding bull to the list of six animals that should not be exhibited and trained as performing animals. (The list other animals in the list are bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions.)