Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors

Animal welfare board of India case
In the Supreme Court of India
Civil Appellate Jurisdiction 
Case No. 
Civil appeal no.  5387  of 2014
Animal Welfare Board Of India
A. Nagaraja & Ors 
K.S. Radhakrishnan, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose


Jallikattu comes from the words, ‘calli’ and ‘kattu’ which means ‘coins’ and ‘package’ respectively; is a traditional, cultural and ritualistic sport involving the daring stance of men trying to establish claim over a bundle of coin tied to the horn of a raging bull. That act is synonymous to valor and pride (and occasionally the hope of getting a bride), because, what brings more masculinity and pride, than being able to pull a stunt before a raging bull, jeopardizing one’s own as well as the cattle’s life, that too all in the name of culture!

The Indian legislature, with the intent to prevent such sufferings and unnecessary infliction of pain on animal promulgated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Further the Tamil Nadu government has passed the Tamil Nadu Registration of Jallikattu Act, 2009(hereafter referred to as TNRJ Act) on the grounds that Tamil Nadu had communicated its hesitance to the thought of banning the diversion expressing that slants of local sentiments will be harmed. The Supreme Court had previously banned the practice in January 2008, but reversed its order four days later, saying the sport could be allowed if certain guidelines were followed.


1. This particular case had two sets of cases. One challenging the Division Bench Judgment of the Madras High Court, which challenged the validity of the Tamil Nadu Registration of Jallikattu Act and few writ petitions that challenged the validity of Ministry of Environment and Forests(hereafter referred to as MoEF) Notification dated 11.07.2011 and another case challenging the Division Bench Judgment of the Bombay High Court upholding the MoEF Notification.

2. Maintaining animal rights and bringing up the “untold cold-bloodedness” the bovines are subjected to; the Supreme Court on banned hundreds of year’s old Jallikattu- bullfights and bullock-cart racing composed amid celebrations in Tamil Nadu and neighboring states.

3. This ban upon ‘sports involving bulls’ was initiated back in 2006 when a  petition was filed before the Madras High Court, seeking permission to conduct Jallikattu. Though the single bench banned Jallikattu, owing to the cruelty associated with it, the Division Bench, in an appeal, overturned the banning order and granted permission to conduct Jallikattu under certain conditions attached to the order.

4. Yet, Jallikattu continued with no regard to the conditions. So, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) put up a notification barring bulls from being exhibited or trained as performing animals. In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India & Ors. v. A. Nagaraja & Ors. the petitioners approached the SC with an appeal against order of the Division Bench, aiming to enforce its notification, the respondents on the other hand claimed that Jallikattu being a traditional sport of Tamil Nadu ought not to be banned. 

5. The SC decisively passed an interim order recognizing the validity of this AWBI notification and the rights guaranteed to bulls under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animal(PCA) 

6. On January 12, 2016 a writ was filed before the SC for the quashing of this notification and for compliance with the above mentioned SC order. In this case, Compassion Unlimited Plus Action & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., the SC stayed this notification on the grounds of cruelty towards the bull and welfare of the animal being of paramount importance in comparison to the claimed ‘culture and tradition’.

7. But again, an unconcerted effort was made to evade the judicial order; the Tamil Nadu state government, exercising its power under the Constitution, came up with an ordinance circumventing the ban and legalizing Jallikattu by changing the name and nature of Jallikattu from a ‘sport’ to a ‘fair’.

Issues Raised

Whether the events that are being conducted in the States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are in violation of Sections 3, 11(1)(a)& (m), 21 and 22 of the PCA Act read with Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Constitution and the notification dated 11.7.2011

Arguments Advanced

 The” Two” Arguments

 Those who support Jallikattu usually rest their arguments on two grounds i.e.-

  • Jallikattu is their cultural or traditional right or it’s their custom and;
  • Jallikattu is their custom which does not harm anyone. But in realty the situation is not as same as they claim.


Stance of the majority Tamilians who form a large portion of protesters is that they project Jallikattu to be the most important aspect of Tamil cultural identity. However, with time we came to an opinion that in the name of culture, there are many social evils which have prevailed in our culture. Dowry, child marriage, sati, poaching and many other such evils. And, these evils are deep-rooted culturally. But just because it has a ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’ attached to it, doesn’t provide it a defence to be practised. It’s high time that it is realised culture is not static, but in a constant state of flux. It should be realized which practise in the name of “culture” is not detrimental to the society.This Court while examining the scope of Articles 25(1), 2(a), 26(b), 17, 14 and 21, quoted that

“Any custom or usage irrespective of even any proof of their existence in pre-constitutional days cannot be countenanced as a source of law to claim any rights when it is found to violate human rights, dignity, social equality and the specific mandate of the Constitution and law made by Parliament. No usage which is found to be pernicious and considered to be in derogation of the law of the land or opposed to public policy or social decency can be accepted or upheld by courts in the country”.

It does cause harm to the bull & the people involved

It is argued that Jallikattu does not harm anyone but  as per the data released by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), around 43 people lost their lives to this sport between 2008 to 2014. To incite bulls for running, some powder which have a burning sensation is often applied on their private parts. They are also chained, beaten and are subjected to other inhuman practice causing them extreme trauma. According to the studies, bulls adopt fighting behaviour when they feel threatened or frightened; this clearly explains the behaviour of bulls during Jallikattu when they run away from people due to fear and pain. Bulls are beaten, poked, prodded, harassed and jumped on by numerous people. They have their tails bitten and twisted and their eyes and noses filled with irritating chemicals.

India is known for its culture, the way they respect, treat others. Also, as per Art 51 A (g) of the Indian Constitution, every citizen of India should have compassion for all living creature.

Not only it is dangerous to animals but, it is often seen that when a large section of people come to the event they have a high expectation to become a part of the action and in order to do that they often make themselves vulnerable and continue to handle bulls in crude fashion, continue to risk their own lives and create hazard for others as well. The government has also made some rules to regulate this sport and it is often seen that no one really follow those rules. Recently, Supreme Court also issues some guidelines for arena barricades that it should be no less than 8 feet high, but these guidelines were also ignored and the barricade in the main are was a low as 5-1/1 feet. 

Constitutional point of view

When in mid-January, Tamil Nadu was witness to a popular youth protest against the Supreme Court’s ban on holding Jallikattu—an annual rural sport in which men are pitted against a bull. The peaceful protest, however, ended on a violent note after police intervened to disperse the protesters following an ordinance by the State government to conduct the annual event, which left the student protesters unconvinced.

Tamil Nadu strives to conserve Jallikattu as their cultural right and demand their protection under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution. Where this article is commonly used to protect the interests of minorities, the Article mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”. In the case of Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College Society case in which it was pointed out that the scope of Article 29 (1) does not necessarily confine to the cultural rights of minorities but may well include the majority. As per the 2014 ban, Tamil Nadu’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 opened the gates for the conduct of the bull-taming sport despite a 2014 ban by the Supreme Court. That year, in the A. Nagaraja judgment, the Supreme Court held Jallikattu cruelty to bulls.

It was further indicated that the Constitution Bench would also look into whether the 2017 Jallikattu and bullock cart races laws of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra actually sub serve the objective of “prevention” of cruelty to animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.And the PETA petitions contend that the 2017 Jallikattu Act and Rules violate the five internationally recognized freedoms — the freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

However it is true to an extent that- incidents of cruelty towards animals have drastically come down after the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act (TNRJ) of 2009, such practices do continue to exist even to this day. And such practices are not the exception but the norm. Even after 2009, the enforcement of rules continues to be shaky given the blow of the cattle owners and organisers and the scant respect for the rule of law and the inability of the State to enforce it in its letter and spirit in an event of such nature and magnitude.

In the case of A. Nagaraja, just because the bull taming sport of Jallikattu was a centuries old tradition, it cannot be justified as Jallikattu sport itself is cruelty on animals and there is prohibition of cruelty. We have to how compassion to the animals. It is our constitutional obligation.

The courts on multiple occasions have held that animals have a fundamental right against infliction of pain.  It was held in the landmark judgement of Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors.–Bulls must not be used in any type of performance which includes races, bullfights. It also added that Governments and Animal Welfare Board must protect the ‘five freedoms’ of animals which includes- freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom from fear and distress and freedom to express normal behaviour.


Thus AWBI is right in its stand that Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race and such events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold 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. Thus the following declarations and directions:

1) The court declared that the rights guaranteed to the Bulls under Sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act read with Articles 51A(g) & (h) are cannot be taken away or curtailed, except under Sections 11(3) and 28 of PCA Act.

2) The five freedoms, referred to earlier be read into Sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act, be protected and safeguarded by the States, Central Government, Union Territories (in short “Governments”), MoEF and AWBI.

3) AWBI and Governments were directed to take appropriate steps to see that the persons-in-charge or care of animals, take reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of animals.

4) AWBI and Governments were directed 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.

5) AWBI is also directed to ensure that the provisions of Section 11(1)(m)(ii)scrupulously followed, meaning thereby, that the person-in-charge or care of the animal shall not incite any animal to fight against a human being or another animal.

6) AWBI and the Governments were also to see that even in cases where Section 11(3) is involved, the animals were not put to unnecessary pain and suffering and adequate and scientific methods be adopted to achieve the same.

7) AWBI and the Governments should take steps to impart education in relation to the human treatment of animals in accordance with Section 9(k) inculcating the spirit of Articles 51A(g) & (h) of the Constitution.

8) Parliament was 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.

9) Parliament, it was 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 honor.

10) The Governments would see that if the provisions of the PCA Act and the declarations and the directions issued by this Court are not properly and effectively complied with, disciplinary action is taken against the erring officials so that the purpose and object of PCA Act could be achieved.

11) TNRJ Act was 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.

12) AWBI was directed to take effective and speedy steps to implement the provisions of PCA Act in consultation with SPCA and make periodical reports to the Governments and if any violation is noticed, the Governments should take steps to remedy the same, including appropriate follow-up action.

Thus, the judgment of the Madras High Court was set aside. The judgment of Bombay High Court and the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government were upheld.

Significance and Analysis of the Verdict

The judgment starts with a summary of the case; the arguments from both sides; the behaviour of the bulls and a description of Jallikattu. It quotes the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) investigation on January 2013 Jallikattu, but this report is not an investigative report but an inquisitive report. The Supreme Case for this situation banned the exercises, for example, Jallikattu and Bullock-cart racing, which physically and mentally tormented animals, expressing that animals excessively would feel agony and that they would respond in a flight reaction manner to keep away from fear. They further held that onlookers excessively would be harmed, since the Supreme Courts prior judgment expressing to utilize at least 8 feet high blockades were not emulated.

Further, the court held that Section 3 of the PCA Act would be abused since the exercises were dispensing pain on the animals. The court likewise considered whether exercises, for example, Jallikattu was a necessity under Section 11(3) of the same Act and in this matter as was previously held in the case of Bhuri Nath and Others vs. The State of Jammu and Kashmir & Others. Here, the court held that excitement, presentation or entertainment don’t fall under the exempted classifications under Section 11(3) and was not a need. The court additionally considered the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the TNRJ Act and held that the Act tried to safeguard aged society and custom and not religious noteworthiness. Bull as an animal was likewise the vehicle utilized by Lord Shiva, consequently the court brought out the misinterpretations brought out by the individuals regarding the role of the animal. The Court has further held that AWBI was right in its stand that Jallikattu and the Bullock-cart race did infact violate Sec 3, Sec 11(1)(a) and Sec 11(1)(m)(ii) of the PCA Act.

The main question to be answered is whether the judgment is a good one or not? The court’s decision was in fact appropriate. There have been so many instances of death and damage to property that the move of the Supreme Court has certain aspects good in the eyes of law. Jallikattu in simple words is a celebration of cruelty. Jallikattu is cruel to animals and also poses a significant threat to public safety. In one four-day period in January 2011, 215 people, including 154 spectators, sustained injuries during Jallikattu events. Two people have even died. Supporters of the Act assert that regulations lessen mercilessness to animals, yet the regulations being referred to arrangement basically with the booking of an occasion, setting up blockades and constraining the quantity of members. Regulations can’t refute the key cold-bloodedness of Jallikattu, and the Animal Welfare Board of India brings up that even these fundamental regulations go unenforced and do little to address the misery of bulls. Furthermore, the Act goes against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which prohibits the misuse of animals.

Edited by Shuvneek Hayer
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


Aparajita Balaji
I am Aparajita Balaji, pursuing BBA-LLB(H) from Vivekananda Institute Of Professional Studies, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. The dynamics of Law has always attracted me, especially the sphere of Criminal Litigation, Corporate Law as well as the Intellectual Property Rights are my areas of interest. I am also passionate about writing. I find a unique level of peace and solace by giving shape to my thoughts, expressed in the form of poems and short-stories. Apart from this, I like watching movies, listening to music and dancing. I have always had a thing for speaking and improving my communication skills therefore, I have participated in a number of debate competitions, moot competitions and have also got few paper published online. In addition to this, I believe in team work. My aim is to work in stimulating environment where I can enhance my knowledge, skill and apply the same in the legal field.