Why SC allowed the controversial practice of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu?

18 May 2023  Read 1675 Views

The Decades old practice of Jallikattu has always been centred around controversies. Both Animal rights organizations and Courts have raised concerns about the cruel treatment of animals and the sport's violent and hazardous nature, which can result in injuries and even death of both the bulls and the participants involved.

Today, the Supreme Court of India passed a significant judgment regarding Jallikattu, but before dwelling on the Judgment, let's understand what Jallikattu is.

What is Jallikattu?

Jallikattu, also called "Eruthazhuvuthal," is a bull-taming sport that takes place during the Pongal harvest festival in Tamil Nadu. It involves young men trying to tame a bull by holding onto it as tightly as possible for as long as they can.

The Legal Battle

The legal disputes concerning Jallikattu arose in 2007 when the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA filed petitions against the sport and bullock cart races in the Supreme Court. However, the Tamil Nadu government managed to overcome the ban by passing a law in 2009, which received the Governor's approval.

In 2011, the Centre government added bulls to the list of animals prohibited from training and exhibition. 

Subsequently , the Supreme Court in the Animal Welfare Board of India vs A. Nagaraja case, 2014 banned the practice of Jallikattu based on a petition that referred to the 2011 notification.

In January 2017, Tamil Nadu witnessed widespread protests against the ban, including a 15-day-long Jallikattu uprising in Chennai.

The State Government then introduced the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Ordinance 2017, which modified the central Act to permit Jallikattu in the state. This ordinance was approved by the President.

Both the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights organization PETA challenged the constitutionality of the Amendment Act of 2017. W

In 2018, the Supreme Court determined that the petitions questioning the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017, required the consideration of a larger bench. This decision was reached due to the significant constitutional interpretation issues involved in the case.

Why SC allowed the controversial practice of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu?, Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu, Kambala

The issue before the Court

Whether Jallikattu and other bullock-cart sports are protected under Article 29(1) of the Constitution as a cultural right.

What did the Court say?

The Supreme Court upheld the 2017 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act and the 2017 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules, acknowledging that Jallikattu has been practised in Tamil Nadu for a century. However, the Court clarified that any violation of the 2017 law under the guise of "cultural tradition" would be subject to legal consequences. Cultural tradition cannot serve as a defence if it goes against the law.

The Court stated that the Amendment Act has significantly reduced pain and cruelty towards the animals involved &  emphasized that the Amendment Act should be strictly adhered to, which was enacted following the 2014 Nagaraja judgment that initially banned Jallikattu. The Act introduces stricter measures to ensure the safety of both humans and animals during the event.

However, the Apex Court did not answer the question of whether Jallikattu is an "integral" part of Tamil Nadu's culture. The Court stated that such a determination cannot be definitively made through a court of law in a writ petition. Justice Bose emphasized that exploring this question requires additional research, representation, and active involvement of the people rather than relying solely on judicial proceedings.


The Judgment permitted the practices of Jallikattu and other bullock cart sports like Kambala and Bailgada Sharyat. 

While the court acknowledged the cultural significance of Jallikattu, it also emphasized the importance of upholding statutory laws and preventing any violations in the name of tradition. The ruling highlights the need for striking a balance between preserving cultural practices and ensuring the welfare and protection of animals. 

About the Author: Priya Barlota | 15 Post(s)

Priya Barlota is a law graduate from Amity University. She is an avid reader, and has a keen interest in Constitutional Law, IPR and Criminal Law. Follows Geo- Politics religiously.

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