While Tamil Nadu’s bull tamers rejoice at the Centre’s notification allowing the traditional bull-taming sport of Jallikattu to be performed a week from now, legal experts are furious at the notification itself.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests had, on 7 January, issued a notification, keeping the bull on a list of animals that should not be used for performance. However, the government cited culture and tradition as reasons to allow the bull to be used as a performing animal in sports such as Jallikattu and cart-racing in some states. The notification stated: “Provided that bulls may be continue to be exhibited or trained as a performing animal, at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat in the manner by the customs of any community or practiced traditionally under the customs or as a part of culture, in any part of the country subject to the following conditions…”
In May 2014, the Supreme Court passed final orders on the issue of Jallikattu, banning the sport. The court ruled that the sport was inherently cruel in nature and that culture or tradition could not be a reason to allow practices which unnecessarily inflict cruelty on animals for human pleasure (the Tamil Nadu government on Saturday filed a caveat in SC asking that it be heard in any cases regarding Jallikattu).
Former Solicitor-General of India Mohan Parasaran is among those legal experts who hold the opinion that the issue is a much larger than allowing Tamil Nadu to continue the tradition of Jallikattu. Parasaran told Firstpost he feels this kind of an executive action is “too much”.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What is your opinion about the Jallikattu notification, considering that the case may still go back to court? Is the notification by the centre allowing the practice to continue legally tenable?
There is a review petition pending in the case. The judgment by the Supreme Court invoked Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The Animal Welfare Board strongly argued the case and the court decided that that the sport violated the law. The judgement was well argued and detailed, taking all aspects of the arguments into consideration.
This notification seeks to put some restrictions on the conduct of Jallikattu. But the issuance of such an order is itself tenuous. The Supreme Court has given its verdict and this order by the executive is tenuous.
Has the executive overreached in passing this order going against the judiciary?
The legislature has powers to overturn any order of the Supreme Court. But the executive passing an order to do it is too much. Ideally the government should have passed legislation in Parliament citing customary practices and traditions, thereby removing issues in the Supreme Court order. The government could have imposed much stricter regulations on Jallikattu and allowed the sport to continue. That is called a Validation Act. That would have been a more decent way to seek to change an order of the Supreme Court. Passing an executive order is not.
Do you think the issue is much larger and more fundamental than allowing Jallikattu to go on?
I am more concerned about institutional integrity and credibility. Today, the Centre has passed such a notification, carried away by popular perception. Tomorrow the executive can take on the judiciary by wishing away a judgement in this fashion. Which means the government can do anything it pleases based on popular sentiment?
Every institution is losing its sanctity. Why can’t you do it in a proper way? There are three options before the government if they wanted to overturn a Supreme Court order: One) file a review petition, two) file an interlocutory application in the disposal of matter or three) get a Validation Act passed through Parliament.
The Opposition is not making an issue of it, though. And taking the Parliament route might have been a lengthy process.
Parliament will not do it. This is an election year. You can already see how muted the reaction is to this order by the executive. Everyone will be happy now, even if the case goes back to court and the court stays Jallikattu. They can always blame the court for it later.
What option is left for the government, considering the Supreme Court order was detailed and thorough in all aspects of the arguments put forth?
The government can think along the lines of allowing some sports – like horse racing and dog shows are allowed with stringent restrictions. The sport of Jallikattu itself can be modified to an extent where it can be done in a dignified way. No one will object to modifying the way Jallikattu is conducted.
If you had been solicitor-general, what advice would you have given to the government on this notification?
I would have advised the government to move a review petition in court or go for a Validation Act.
The author tweets @sandhyravishan