The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Maharashtra government to conduct bullock cart races in the state in accordance with the rules and the amendments made by it to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The order was passed by the top court bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilar and CT Ravikumar while hearing the interim application in Maharashtra’s special leave petition, which was filed in 2018 challenging the stay order passed by the Bombay High Court against the conduct of bullock cart races in the state.
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil and Minister of Sports and Animal Husbandry Sunil Kedar on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision on lifting the ban on bullock cart races in the state.
The application filed by Maharashtra urged the apex court to permit it to conduct a bullock-cart race. One of the advocates appearing in the matter had earlier told the apex court that the bullock-cart race was banned in Maharashtra on the ground that it was cruelty to the animal.
The Maharashtra government has said that there is a prohibition on bullock-cart race in the state as the Bombay High Court in its interim order had refused to lift the ban in 2017, while there is no stay on the concerned Acts of the other two states. Jallikattu, also known as ‘eruthazhuvuthal’, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival.
The Maharashtra government had on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the ban on bullock-cart race in the state should be lifted as the same is going on in states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The state government had told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar that they should be allowed to conduct bullock-cart races in accordance with the 2017 Rules. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, said the Bombay High Court had stayed the operation of the Rules by which the state wanted to hold bullock-cart races under strict regulations.
“The ban should be removed and we should be allowed to conduct races in accordance with the Rules of 2017,” he told the bench, which was hearing an application filed by Maharashtra in the matter. He said the top court can ask for the supervision of the collector concerned, who can be answerable. “The rules itself provide for that,” the bench observed. Rohatgi said the bench can issue a word of caution and the state would take full care.
He referred to the earlier order of the apex court, which had referred the pleas related to ‘Jallikattu’ to a five-judge Constitution bench which would decide if the bull-taming sport fell under cultural rights or perpetuated cruelty to animals.
“For the last three years, since it was referred to a Constitution bench, all the other adjoining states are enjoying this bullock cart race. Our state is unable to do it, despite that it is in an identical position,” Rohatgi said.
He said the high court’s interim order of the high court should be modified and the state be permitted to conduct the bullock-cart race. The senior advocate said several pleas challenging the law of other states, which are identical to that of Maharashtra, are pending before the apex court and there is no stay on them.