Known as Pasuvula Panduga, Eru Thazhuvuthal, Manju Virattu, Sallikkattu or simply bull taming event Jallikattu has been much in news. Be it banning the sport event; protest on the streets of Tamil Nadu or be it lifting up the ban, Jallikattu has attracted the attention of different fragments of the society. Recently the crowd of India was testimony to the cheers, happiness and amusement, as the State celebrated the age old sport in its various parts. Much more than festivity, it brought controversay for itself.  Two bull vaulters have died and eighty three are injured. With this the great debate to get Jallikattu banned once again has sparked off and with the passing of days is gaining momentum.  

Jallikattu is an annual event wherein the participants make attempts to tame and hug the bull; conducted as a part and parcel of traditional celebrations of the four day harvest festival Pongal. ‘Jellicut’ literally means those bulls who are bred especially for this sporting event. Jalli and kattu are the two components which combinedly form Jallikattu. The former refers to ‘gold or silver coin’ while the latter stands for ‘bundle or pouch’. Collectively Jallikattu signifies a sporting event wherein the coins are tied to bulls horns. The winner gets these coins in form of prize money. This bull taming sport is enjoyed every year on Mattu Pongal day.

In this sport, especially trained bulls are left free in arena. Men in groups enter the arena. They are required to embrace the bull’s hump and try to tame the bull by overpowering the raging bull. Possibly for overpowering the bull, the supposed winner has to ride the bull by holding its hump. This the participants have to do with bare hands. The general perception is that those bulls who can be tamed easily are comparatively weaker and hence their use is to remain confined to domestic purposes by the farmers. Might is symbolized by those bulls who cannot be tamed. Henceforth they are used for breeding the cows. 

Jallikattu was traditionally a means to find a strong groom. The winner of the sport was considered as en eligible bachelor for the maids of the villages. It was played by the ancient Mayor or Yadava in the ancient Tamil country[1]. In recent times, it has evolved as a sport. A sport played with the intention of displaying their strength and to grab the prize money. 

Jallikattu is a sport of strength. It renders an opportunity to the farmers to flaunt their personal strength, the strength of their bulls, their love for cattle and how much successful they have been in looking after them. It also enables the farmers to know the strongest and most virile among them who will ultimately breed their cows. Such is the significance of Jallikattu to the farmers.

Sub clauses (a), (b), (c), (m) and (n) of Section 11 (1)(Treating animals cruelly) of Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 define Jallikattu more narrowly and accurately than its components. Historically the spectators were witness to one man and one bull in the ring at one time. But the current day practice is groups of men with just one raging bull in the ring. All of them trying to dominate the bull and win the prize money. For the purposes of winning over the bull, the beast is kicked at, over-ridden and all other tactises adopted definitely causes or subjects it to pain and suffering. Frequently nail-studded sticks are used for hitting the bulls. It is either the bull manages to escape or the ultimate is killed at the worst with which the round comes to an end. The bulls are subjected to stone hearted acts like their tales are twisted and bitten, are both stabbed and jabbed by all kinds of sharp objects, jumped on and dragged to the ground by the those martyrs. It amounts to cruelty to the beast in all its sense. And all this is UNNCESSARILY.

Those bulls who are not as wild and ferocious as is required for the sport, they are provoked to be the same. This is done by poking them with pointed and sharp objects, getting them drunk and to the worst smearing chilly powder in their eyes. Is this outside the scope of cruelty? Isn’t it justified to call it treating bulls cruelly?  Apart from this, the reports suggest that to overpower the terrified ones, they are made to consume substances like alcohol.   This is what sub section (c) states.

Section 3 of PCA makes it obligatory for every person having charge or care as the case may be of animals to take all reasonable measures to endure the well being of such animals and to prevent the infliction upon such animals of unnecessary pain or suffering[2]. Following the same, it shall be the duty of the owner of the temple bulls not to allow any kind of infliction of injury, pain or suffering on the temple bulls.  Well Jallikattu is for the pleasure and thrill of the audience. At the end of the rounds, the bull is found in pitiable condition. Thus we can say here so the owners are in conflict with law.  

Under Section 11(1)(m)(ii) and Section11(1)(n) of PCA, organizing of or participating in or inciting any animal fight is a cognizable offence[3]. Aligning with these legal provisions Jallikattu should also be treated as a cognizable offence. This is because the former is basically a fight between an animal and a human. Therefore, the participants, spectators and the owners of bull all can be alleged of committing a cognizable offence.     

Sec 22 of PCA puts a restriction on exhibition and training of performing animals. It provides relaxation only to those registered in consonance with the provisions of this Act. Nair, N.R. and Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors[4] is a landmark case in this regard. The Kerala High Court has upheld a notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests stating that bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals. However this notification   was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Apex Court declared that animals suffer cruelty as they are abused and caged to make them perform, and therefore, this contravenes the PCA Act, 1960[5]. It also dismissed the argument that the petitioners’ right to carry out any trade or business under article 19(g) of the Indian Constitution was violated as those activities that caused pain and suffering to the aforementioned animals would not be allowed[6]. When it is possible with bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions, then why not with bulls? The owners training for the temple bulls for the grand event are justified to be held liable.

Sec 428 and 429 of IPC do not lag behind to punish those who maim cattle. And Jallikattu too belongs to these two sections. 

Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India,1950, enshrines a fundamental duty and mandates it that it shall be the duty of every citizen to have compassion for living creatures[7]. Living creatures herein surely includes temple bulls used specifically for Jallikattu. ‘Compassion for living creatures’ has been analyzed in the case of Animals And Birds Charitable Trust vs.  Municipal Corporation Of Greater Mumbai[8]. The Apex court has held that ‘compassion for living creatures’ means concern for their suffering, sympathy, kindliness, etc. It has further stated that the fundamental duty of a citizen under Clause (g) of Article 51A of the Constitution of India to show compassion to living beings is required to be read with Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act. Right to live in a healthy and clean atmosphere and right to get protection from human beings against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering is a right guaranteed to the animals under Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act read with Clause (g) of Article 51A of the Constitution of India[9]. The Supreme Court has also widened the scope of ‘Right to dignity and fair treatment’. It is not confined to human beings alone, but it applies to animals as well;

It has been reported that from 2010 to 2014, approximately 1100 people have sustained injuries and there has been 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu. Over 200 people have lost their lives from the blood sport over the past two decades[10].

Petition was filed by PETA wherein the validity of TNRJ Act was challenged. Their bone of contention was that Jallikattu conducted in the state of Tamil Nadu inherently violated the provisions of the PCA Act, particularly, Section 3, Sections 11(1)(a) & (m) and Section 22 of the PCA Act[11]. At no cost just because Jallikattu has historical, cultural or religious significance, it shall supersede the welfare legislations carrying the brand name of Parliamentary legislation. Their third stand was that bulls involved in Jallikattu are not “performing animals” within the meaning of Sections 21 and 22 of the PCA Act[12]. They called TNRJ Act as repugnant to the provisions of the PCA Act and so the rules made under it. The State cannot acting independently give effect to it without the assent of the President under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. Lastly, it was submitted that those 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[13].

The bench composed of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose declared that the stand of AWBI was right. It is true that Jallikattu, Bullock-cart race and alike events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act. In the process, upheld the notification dated 11.7.2011 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[14].  The conclusion of after ban  protests was enactment of new law. With the help of bipartisan support, a new law was passed to put an end to the ban imposed by the Apex Court on Jallikattu[15].

So there stands a conflict between culture, utility and law. The big question here is that in a country which preaches rule of law, is it appropriate to compromise with law in the name of culture. As a responsible citizen of the country, it is our duty to strike a balance between lifting the ban and eradication of the cruelty that has enveloped in this sporting event. The urgent need of the hour is to have proper guidelines regarding Jallikattu. The last resort is to allow Jallikattu to be played in the form as it was practiced. Yes, in the original form with one man and a bull in the ring. In other words, in the ethical way.  Indians boast about the multi-linguistic, cultural heritage of the country. Unity in diversity is what India promotes. It becomes our duty to preserve our very own ethinicity and in this case, Tamilian culture rises to the occasion. 


[1] Aishwarya Krishnan, Jallikattu: What is the History, Significance & Meaning of Tamil Nadu’s Eruthazhuvuthal or Bull Taming Pongal event?, (22nd Jan 2017, 9:54), http://www.india.com/buzz/jallikattu-or-eruthazhuvuthal-what-is-the-history-significance-meaning-of-tamil-nadus-pongal-event-1755117/ (Last visited on 12/9/17 at 7:28).   

[2] Id.

[3] Humane Society International (India), 15 Animal Rights in India That Every Citizen Should Know, http://www.thebetterindia.com/46721/humane-society-india-animal-laws-prevention-of-cruelty-act/ (Last visited 13/9/17 at 7:34).

[4] Case No. Appeal (civil) 3609-3620 of 2001.

[5]Humane Society International (India), 7 Landmark Judgements That Were Big Wins for Animal Welfare in India, http://www.thebetterindia.com/52075/animal-welfare-cruelty-law-court-judgements/(Last visited 14/9/17 at 12:14).

[6] Id.

[7]THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA,1950, http://lawmin.nic.in/olwing/coi/coi-english/coi-indexenglish.htm(Last visited 13/9/17 at 20:18).  

[8]Animals And Birds Charitable Trust vs.  Municipal Corporation Of Greater Mumbai, Public Litigation No. 36 of 2011, https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/93473576/?formInput=constitution%20article%2051A%20%20%20doctypes%3A%20judgments (Last visited 13/9/17 at 20:40).

[9] Id.

[10] What is Jallikattu – 5 things that make it controversial, (12th Jan2016,20:45),http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/what-is-jallikattu-and-why-supreme-court-took-the-bull-festival-by-horns-all-you-should-know_1844359.html (Last visited 13/9/17 at 7:15).

[11] Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors on 7 May, 2014, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/39696860/ (Last visited on 24/9/2017).

[12] Id.

[13] Id. 

[14] Id.

[15] Nonika Marwaha, Jallikattu Protests Block Major Roads, Flyovers In Chennai: 10 Updates, January 23, 2017 20:46 IST, http://www.ndtv.com/tamil-nadu-news/new-law-to-end-ban-on-jallikattu-cleared-by-tamil-nadu-10-updates-1651784 (Last visited on 25/9/2017 at 12:20).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *