SC bans Tamil Nadu bull fights, bullock cart races (Lead)

New Delhi, Urging the government to accord constitutional status to animal rights, the Supreme Court Wednesday banned Tamil Nadu's centuries-old Jallikattu bull fights, saying that bulls could not be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu or bullock-cart races.

Holding that the rights guaranteed to the bulls under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, could not be taken away or curtailed, a bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose said: "We, therefore, hold that AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India) is right in its stand that Jallikattu, bullock-cart races and such events per se violate the PCA (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Act."

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

"Parliament is expected to make proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent to achieve the object and purpose of the Act and for violation of section 11, adequate penalties and punishments should be imposed," the court said in its judgment.

Bringing curtains down on Jallikattu, the court junked the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act saying: "TNRJ Act is found repugnant to PCA Act, which is a welfare legislation, hence held constitutionally void, being violative of article 254(1) of the Constitution of India."

"We uphold the notification dated July 11, 2011 issued by the central government, consequently, bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country."

The July 11, 2011 notification included bulls in the category of animals which could not be exhibited or trained for exhibition as a performing animal.

Stating the rights guaranteed to the bulls could neither be taken away or curtailed, the court issued 12 declaration and directions saying that the five freedoms recognised by the World Health Organization of Animal Health (OIE) be read into the the PCA Act, 1960, and same be protected and safeguarded by the central, state and union territory governments, and and AWBI.

The five freedoms include i) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; ii) freedom from fear and distress; iii) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; iv) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and v) freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

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

The AWBI was asked to ensure that the provision of PCA Act are scrupulously followed so that the person-in-charge of the animal "shall not incite any animal to fight against a human being or another animal".

The court also said that for the dehorning, castration, branding or nose-roping of any animal, destruction of stray dogs in lethal chambers or extermination of any animal under the authority of any law should be done by not putting such animals to unnecessary pain and suffering and by adopting adequate scientific methods.

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