Animals have rights to live with dignity, SC bans Jallikattu, bullock-cart races

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: May 8 2014, 03:26am hrs
Expanding the ambit of rights of animals, the Supreme Court today banned using bulls for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races across the country and hoped parliament would elevate the rights of animals to that of constitutional rights.

The apex court directed governments and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to take steps to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals saying all living creatures, including animals, have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being.

"Animal also has honour and dignity which cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be respected and protected from unlawful attacks," a bench, headed by Justice K S Radhakrishnan, said adding the "Court also has a duty under the doctrine of parents patriae to take care of the rights of animals since they are unable to take care of themselves as against human beings".

"Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country," the bench said.

It said Jallikattu demonstrates a link between actions of humans and the fear, distress and pain experienced by bulls and the torture and cruelty meted out to the bulls is unimaginable.

"Parliament, it is expected, would elevate the rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many countries around the world, so as to protect their dignity and honour," the bench, also comprising Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, said.

The apex court declared Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as constitutionally void, being violative or Article 254(1) of the Constitution of India.

"We are sorry to note that in spite of the various directions issued by this Court, in the conduct of Jallikattu, Bullock cart Race etc, the regulatory provisions of TNRJ Act and the restrictions in Maharashtra, the situation is the same and no action is being taken by the District Collectors, police officials and others who are in-charge to control the same," it said.

The apex court said organizers of Jallikattu are depriving the rights guaranteed to the bulls under Section 3 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA)Act, 1960.

"Sadism and perversity is writ large in the actions of the organizers of Jallikattu and the event is meant not for the well-being of the animal but for the pleasure and enjoyment of human beings, particularly the organizers and spectators. Organizers of Jallikattu feel that their bulls have only instrumental value to them, forgetting their intrinsic worth," it said.

The court directed AWBI and governments to take steps to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on the animals, since their rights have been statutorily protected under Sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act.

"All living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being which encompasses protection from beating, kicking, over-driving, over-loading, torture, pain and suffering etc. Human life, we often say, is not like animal existence, a view having anthropocentric bias, forgetting the fact that animals also have got intrinsic worth and value," it said.

MoEF had as early as on March 2, 1991 issued a notification under Section 22 of PCA Act banning training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs but in 1998 dogs were excluded from the notification.

The ministry issued a fresh notification dated September 11, 2011, specifically including bulls also so as to ban their exhibition or training as performing animals.

Upholding the Centre's notification of 2011, the bench said even the ancient culture and tradition do not support the conduct of Jallikattu or bullock cart race as Tamil tradition and culture are to worship the bull which is considered as the vehicle of Lord Shiva.