Animal Welfare Board Of India V. A. Nagaraja & Ors.

Animal Welfare Board Of India V. A. Nagaraja & Ors.

Animal Welfare Board Of India V. A. Nagaraja & Ors. [2014] Insc 244 (7 May 2014)

Court Judgment Information

  • Year: 2014
  • Date: 7 May 2014
  • Court: Supreme Court of India
  • INSC: [2014] INSC 244

Text of the Court Opinion


Civil Appelate Jurisdiction

CIVIL APPEAL No. 5387 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11686 of 2007) Animal Welfare Board of India . Appellant Versus A. Nagaraja & Ors. . Respondents WITH

CIVIL APPEAL No. 5388 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.10281 of 2009) CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 5389-5390 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.18804-18805 of 2009) CIVIL APPEAL No. 5391 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.13199 of 2012) CIVIL APPEAL No. 5392 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.13200 of 2012) CIVIL APPEAL No. 5393 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.4598 of 2013) CIVIL APPEAL No. 5394 OF 2014 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 12789 of 2014) (@ SLP(C) CC.4268 of 2013) WRIT PETITION (C) No.145 OF 2011 AND T.C. (C) Nos.84, 85, 86, 97, 98 and 127 of 2013 K.S. Radhakrishnan, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. We are, in these cases, concerned with an issue of seminal importance with regard to the Rights of Animals under our Constitution, laws, culture, tradition, religion and ethology, which we have to examine, in connection with the conduct of Jallikattu, Bullock-cart races etc. in the States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, with particular reference to the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (for short ‘the PCA Act’), the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 (for short “TNRJ Act”) and the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government under Section 22(ii) of the PCA Act.

3. We have two sets of cases here, one set challenges the Division Bench Judgment of the Madras High Court at Madurai dated 09.03.2007, filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (for short “AWBI”), Writ Petition No. 145 of 2011 filed by an organisation called PETA, challenging the validity of TNRJ Act and few other writ petitions transferred from the Madras High Court at Madurai challenging/enforcing the validity of the MoEF Notification dated 11.07.2011 and another set of cases, like SLP No. 13199 of 2012, challenging the Division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court dated 12.03.2012 upholding the MoEF Notification dated 11.07.2011 and the corrigendum issued by the Government of Maharashtra dated 24.08.2011 prohibiting all Bullock-cart races, games, training, exhibition etc.

Review Petition No. 57 of 2012 was filed against the judgment of the Bombay High Court, which was dismissed by the High Court on 26.11.2012, against which SLP No. 4598 of 2013 has been filed.

4. ABWI, a statutory Board, established under Section 4 of the PCA Act for the promotion of animal welfare and for the purpose of protecting the animals from being subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering has taken up a specific stand that Jallikattu, Bull/Bullock-cart races etc., as such, conducted in the States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively, inherently violate the provisions of the PCA Act, particularly, Section 3, Sections 11(1)(a) & (m) and Section 22 of the PCA Act. ABWI, through its reports, affidavits and photographs, high-lighted the manner in which Jallikattu is being conducted, especially in the Southern Part of the State of Tamil Nadu, and how the bulls involved are physically and mentally tortured for human pleasure and enjoyment. Details have also been furnished by the 2nd respondent, in SLP No. 13199 of 2012, along with photographs explaining how the Bullock-cart race is being conducted in various parts of the State of Maharashtra and the torture and cruelty meted out to the bullocks. ABWI has taken up the stand that, by no stretch of imagination, it can be gainsaid that Jallikattu or Bullock-cart race conducted, as such, has any historical, cultural or religious significance, either in the State of Tamil Nadu or in the State of Maharashtra and, even assuming so, the welfare legislation like PCA Act would supersede the same, being a Parliamentary legislation. ABWI has also taken up the specific stand that the bulls involved in Jallikattu, Bullock-cart race etc. are not “performing animals” within the meaning of Sections 21 and 22 of the PCA Act and that the MoEF, in any view, was justified in issuing the notification dated 11.7.2011 banning the exhibition of Bulls or training them as performing animals on accepting the stand taken by it before this Court. Further, it has also taken up the stand that the TNRJ Act is repugnant to the provisions of the PCA Act and the rules made thereunder and State cannot give effect to it in the absence of the assent of the President under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. Further, ABWI also submits that the Bulls which are forced to participate in the race are subjected to considerable pain and suffering, which clearly violates Section 3 and Sections 11(1)(a) & (m) of the PCA Act read with Article 51A(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and hence exhibition or training them as performing animals be completely banned.

5. Organizers of Jallikattu and Bullock-cart races, individually and collectively, took up the stand that these events take place at the end of harvest season (January and February) and sometimes during temple festivals which is traditionally and closely associated with village life, especially in the Southern Districts of the State of Tamil Nadu. Organizers of Bullock-cart races in the State of Maharashtra also took the stand that the same is going on for the last more than three hundred years by way of custom and tradition and that extreme care and protection are being taken not to cause any injury or pain to the bullocks which participate in the event. Organizers also submitted that such sport events attract large number of persons which generates revenue for the State as well as enjoyment to the participants. Further, it was also stated that no cruelty is meted out to the performing bulls in Bullock-cart races so as to violate Section 11(1)(a) of the PCA Act and the District Collector, Police Officials etc. are always on duty to prevent cruelty on animals. Further, it is also their stand that the sport events can only be regulated and not completely prohibited and the State of Tamil Nadu has already enacted the TNRJ Act, which takes care of the apprehensions expressed by the Board.

6. The State of Tamil Nadu has also taken up the stand that every effort shall be made to see that bulls are not subjected to any cruelty so as to violate the provisions of the PCA Act and the sport event can be regulated as per the provisions of the TNRJ Act. Further, it was also pointed out that the bulls taking part in the Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race etc. are specifically identified, trained, nourished for the purpose of the said sport event and owners of Bulls spend considerable money for training, maintenance and upkeep of the bulls. Further, the State has also taken up the stand that the Bulls are “performing animals”, and since there is no sale of tickets in the events conducted, Section 22 will not apply, so also the notification dated 11.7.2011. State has also taken up the stand that complete ban on such races would not be in public interest which is being conducted after harvest season and sometimes during temple festivals as well. The State of Maharashtra has not challenged the judgment of the Bombay High Court and hence we have to take it that the State is in favour of banning the exhibition or training of Bulls, whether castrated or otherwise as performing animals.

7. MoEF, as early as on 2.3.1991, issued a notification under Section 22 of PCA Act banning training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs, which was challenged by the Indian Circus Organization before the Delhi High Court but, later, a corrigendum was issued, whereby dogs were excluded from the notification. On the direction issued by the Delhi High Court, a Committee was constituted and, based on its report, a notification dated 14.10.1998 was issued excluding dogs from its purview, the legality of the notification was challenged before this Court in N. R.

Nair Others v. Union of India and Others (2001) 6 SCC 84, which upheld the notification. Later, MoEF issued a fresh notification dated 11.7.2011, specifically including “Bulls” also, so as to ban their exhibition or training as performing animals, while this Court was seized of the matter.

8. MoEF has now abruptly taken up the stand that though “Bull” has been included in the list of animals, not to be exhibited or trained as “performing animal” vide Notification dated 11.07.2011, it has been pointed out that, in order to strike a balance and to safeguard the interest of all stakeholders, including animals, and keeping in mind the historical, cultural and religious significance of the event, and with a view to ensure that no unnecessary pain or suffering is caused to the animals, participants as well as spectators, the Government proposes to exempt bulls participating in Jallikattu in the State of Tamil Nadu from the purview of the Notification dated 11.07.2011, subject to the guidelines, copy of which has been provided along with the affidavit filed by the Deputy Secretary, MoEF.

9. Shri Raj Panjwani, learned senior counsel appearing for AWBI as well as for the Petitioner in Writ Petition No. 145 of 2011, submitted that the event Jallikattu, even if conducted following the TNJR Act, would still violate the provisions of PCA Act, especially Section 11(1)(a). Learned senior counsel submitted that Jallikattu, as an event, involves causing the Bull pain and suffering and cannot be free from cruelty and hence falls within the meaning of Section 11(1)(a). Further, it was pointed out that, during Jallikattu, the Bulls, it is observed, carry out a flight response, indicating both fear and pain and suffering. Shri Panjwani made considerable stress on the words “or otherwise” in Section 11(1)(a) and submitted that any act which inflicts unnecessary pain or suffering on an animal is prohibited unless it is specifically permitted under any of the provisions of PCA Act or the rules made thereunder. Shri Panjwani also submitted that since the event Jallikattu, as such, is an offence under Section 11(1)(a), through a State Act, it can neither be permitted nor regulated and hence the State Act is void under Article 245(1) of the Constitution, in the absence of any Presidential Assent.

10. Shri Rakesh Dwivedi, learned senior counsel appearing for State of Tamil Nadu, referring to Section 11(3) of PCA Act, submitted that the Act does not prohibit the infliction of all forms of pain or suffering on animals and hence Section 11(1)(a) has to be read and understood in that context. Referring to Sections 11(1)(a), (g), (h), (j), (m) and (n), learned senior counsel submitted that the expression “unnecessary pain or suffering” is not used in those clauses and hence the events like Jallikattu, which do not cause that much of pain or suffering on the animal, cannot be completely prohibited, but could only by regulated.

11. Shri Bali, learned senior counsel appearing for the organizers, highlighted the historical and cultural importance of Jallikattu event and submitted that, taking into consideration the nature of the event, the same would not cause any unnecessary pain or suffering to the Bulls which participate in that event, so as to violate Section 3 or Section 11(1)(a) of PCA Act. Learned senior counsel submitted that such events could be regulated under the regulations framed under TNRJ Act as well as the additional safeguards taken by the State Government and the proposed guidelines framed by MoEF. Learned senior counsel also submitted that the mere fact that there has been some violation of the regulations would not mean that the entire event be banned in the State of Tamil Nadu which, according to the learned senior counsel, will not be in public interest.

Learned senior counsel also referred to the manner in which such events are being conducted world-over, after taking proper precaution for the safety of the animals used in those events.

12. We have to examine the various issues raised in these cases, primarily keeping in mind the welfare and the well-being of the animals and not from the stand point of the Organizers, Bull tamers, Bull Racers, spectators, participants or the respective States or the Central Government, since we are dealing with a welfare legislation of a sentient being, over which human-beings have domination and the standard we have to apply in deciding the issue on hand is the “Species Best Interest”, subject to just exceptions, out of human necessity.

Bulls –Behavioral ethology

13. Bulls (Bos Indicus) are herbivores, prey by nature adopted to protest themselves when threatened engaging in a ‘flight response’, that is run away stimulus, which they find when threatening. Bulls, in that process, use their horns, legs, or brute force to protect themselves from threat or harm. Bulls are often considered to be herd animals. Bulls move in a relaxed manner if they are within a herd or even with other Bulls.

Individual Bull exhibits immense anxiety if it is sorted away from the herd. Bulls vocalize when they are forced away from the rest of the herd and vocalization is an indicator of stress. Bulls exhibit a fight or flight response when exposed to a perceived threat. Bulls are more likely to flee than fight, and in most cases they fight, when agitated.

14. Bulls usually stand to graze and pattern of grazing behavior of each herd member is relatively similar, which moves slowly across the pasture with the muzzle close to the ground and they ruminate resting. Bull is known to be having resting behavior and will avoid source of noise and disturbance and choose non-habitual resting sites if the preferred ones are close to the noise or disturbance, which is the natural instinct of the Bull. Study conducted also disclosed that Bulls have long memories.

Factors mentioned above are the natural instincts of Bulls.

15. Bulls, as already indicated, accordingly to the animal behavior studies, adopt flight or fight response, when they are frightened or threatened and this instinctual response to a perceived threat is what is being exploited in Jallikattu or Bullock-cart races. During Jallikattu, many animals are observed to engage in a flight response as they try to run away from arena when they experience fear or pain, but cannot do this, since the area is completely enclosed. Jallikattu demonstrates a link between actions of humans and the fear, distress and pain experienced by bulls. Studies indicate that rough or abusive handling of Bulls compromises welfare and for increasing Bulls fear, often, they are pushed, hit, prodded, abused, causing mental as well as physical harm.


16. Jallikattu is a Tamil word, which comes from the term “Callikattu”, where “Calli” means coins and “Kattu” means a package. Jallikattu refers to silver or gold coins tied on the bulls’ horns. People, in the earlier time, used to fight to get at the money placed around the bulls’ horns which depicted as an act of bravery. Later, it became a sport conducted for entertainment and was called “Yeruthu Kattu”, in which a fast moving bull was corralled with ropes around its neck. Started as a simple act of bravery, later, assumed different forms and shapes like Jallikattu (in the present form), Bull Race etc., which is based on the concept of flight or fight. Jallikattu includes Manjuvirattu, Oormaadu, Vadamadu, Erudhu, Vadam, Vadi and all such events involve taming of bulls.

17. AWBI gives a first hand information of the manner in which the event of Jallikattu is being conducted in Southern parts of Tamil Nadu, through three reports submitted along with the additional affidavit filed by the Secretary of the Animal Welfare Board, MoEF, Government of India on 7.9.2013, flouting the various directions issued by this Court, High Court and the regulatory provisions of TNRJ Act. Dr. Manilal Vallyate and Mr. Abhishek Raje, the Observors of AWBI, have submitted the first report regarding Jallikattu events that took place at Avnlapuram on 14.1.2013, Palamedu on 15.1.2013 and Alanganallur on 16.1.2013. Relevant portions of the reports read as under:

“I. Executive Summary In a comprehensive investigation authorized by the Animal Welfare Board of India, investigators observed jallikattu events at venues in Avaniapuram, Palamedu and Alanganallur on the 14th, 15th and 16th of January 2013, respectively. During the course of the investigation, one bull died and many more were injured. Investigators observed that bulls were forced to participate and were deliberately taunted, tormented, mutilated, stabbed, beaten, chased and denied even their most basic needs, including food, water and sanitation. The findings of this investigation clearly show that bulls who are used in jallikattu are subjected to extreme cruelty and unmitigated suffering.

All the acts of cruelty to animals detailed in the below observations contravene the orders of the Supreme Court of India and Madurai High Court, which mandate that bulls should not be harmed or tortured in any way. Such animal abuse is also in violation of numerous clauses of section 11(1) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. II. Welfare Implications and Violations of the Law

1. Ear Cutting/Mutilation At least 80 per cent of the bulls observed had their ears cut, with three-fourths of the external ear pinna absent. When asked about the reason for the mutilation, many bull owners explained that by cutting the ear, the animal would be able to hear sounds even from the back, which they deemed to be very important while the animals are in the jallikattu arena.

Welfare Concerns Cutting the external ear in no way helps to improve a bull’s hearing.

Instead, the bull loses his natural ability to receive sounds signals with appropriate positioning and movement of the ear pinna. Cutting the ear causes intense pain and distress as the external ear pinna consists of cartilage and is highly vascular with a rich nerve supply.

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