Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja

Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja
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.
Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose.


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 simple act of bravery, it 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.

With regard to Jallikattu sport, the State of Tamil Nadu has 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 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 [hereafter referred to as PCA Act] and the sports event can be regulated as per the provision of the Tamil Nadu Registration of Jallikattu Act, 2009 [hereafter referred to as TNRJ Act]. It was also pointed out that the bulls taking part in Jallikattu, bullock cart race, etc. are specially identified, trained, nourished for the purpose of the said sport event.


The current case has basically presented two sets of cases, one set challenges the Division Bench judgement of the Madras High Court dated 09.03.2007, filed by an organisation called PETA, challenging the validity of the TNRJ Act and few other petitions which challenging the validity of the MoEF Notification dated 11.07.2011 and another set of cases that upholds the validity of MoEF Notification.

Animal Welfare Board of India [hereinafter referred to as AWBI], a statutory Board, presented before the court the specific stand that Jallikattu, bull/bullock cart races, etc., as such, conducted in the States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively, inherently violate the provision of the PCA Act, particularly, Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and (m), 22.

AWBI also presented the different researches and studies about the nature of bulls and reports and photographs about Jallikattu events that indicates they exhibit flight or fight response when exposed to a perceived threat. The studies also indicate that their welfare is compromised for the pleasure of human beings.

The Organizers deliberately beat, agitate and injure the bulls for increasing their fear and anxiety and keep them in acutely painful and uncomfortable position for hours without food and water.

The controversy of the bull games started in the year 2004 with the petition filed by the South Indian Humanitarian League and Blue Cross of India to the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state legislature to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls. Though the single bench banned Jallikattu, owing to the cruelty, the Division Bench, in another appeal, overturned the previous order and granted permission to conduct Jallikattu under special conditions.

In the present case, AWBI has approached the Supreme Court against the order of the Division Bench, aiming to enforce the notification, while the Organisers on the other hand argue that Jallikattu ought not to be banned on the grounds of culture and traditions.


Whether the 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 the PCA Act read with Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Constitution and the notification dated 11.7.2011.

Contentions put forward:

Appellant Side:

  1. The learned counsel appearing for AWBI submitted that the event Jallikattu, even if conducted following the TNJR Act, would still violate the provisions of the PCA Act, especially Section 11(1)(a).
  2. It was further submitted that the 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).
  3. It was also pointed 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.

Respondents Side:

  1. The learned counsel appearing for the organisers, 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.
  2. The learned senior counsel also 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.
  3. Further, it was 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.


Cruelty to animals:

The court observed that Section 11 of PCA act deals with the cruelty of animals. It confers no right on the organisers to conduct Jallikattu/bullock cart race. Section 11 is a beneficial provision enacted for the welfare and protection of the animals and it is penal in nature. Being penal in nature, it confers rights on animals and obligations on all persons, including those who are in charge or care of the animals. As a report submitted by AWBI clearly indicates the bulls are being treated with extreme cruelty and suffering, violating the provisions of Section 11(1) PCA act.

Non-Essential Activities:

The court said that we have a lot of avoidable non-essential human activities like Bullock-cart race, Jallikattu etc. Bulls, thinking that they have only instrumental value are intentionally used though avoidable, ignoring welfare of the Bulls solely for human pleasure. Such avoidable human activities violate rights guaranteed to them under Sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act. AWBI, the expert statutory body has taken up the stand that events like Jallikattu, Bullock-cart race etc. inherently involve pain and suffering, which involves both physical and mental components, including fear and distress. Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, in their work on “Animals in Translation” say:

“The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it is worse than pain. I always get surprised looks when I say this. If you gave most people a choice between intense pain and intense fear, they’d probably pick fear.”

Both anxiety and fear, therefore, play an important role in animal suffering, which is part and parcel of the events like Jallikattu, Bullock.

The inclusion of animal under Article 21:

Every species has a right to life and security, subject to the law of the land, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity. Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word “life” has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution.

As far as Jallikattu and other forms of bulls races are concerned, the various reports indicate, causes considerable pain, stress and strain on the bulls. Bulls, in such events, not only do move their head showing that they do not want to go to the arena but, as pain is being inflicted in the vadivasal so much, they have no other option but to flee to a situation which is adverse to them. Bulls, in that situation, are stressed, exhausted, injured and humiliated. 


The court held that AWBI 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.

Hence, the appeals, transferred cases and the Writ Petition are disposed of as above, setting aside the judgment of the Madras High Court, but upholding the judgment of Bombay High Court and the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government.


In conclusion, it can be said that the Supreme Court of India delivered a sensational judgment banning certain bull-fighting practices. The Court, in its analysis, sought to bring animals under the protection of the rights discourse by stating that Article 21 of the Constitution of India could be applied to animal life. The Court stated that the term ‘life’ must be expansively interpreted. As animals form a crucial part of human beings’ environment, their rights must also be protected under Article 21. The definition of “life” under the said Article was extended to include animal life, which would further expand to mean a life of dignity, worth and honour. Reading provisions of the PCA Act along with Articles 21 and 51A(g) of the Constitution, it was held that animals also have a right against human beings not to be tortured and against the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering. Therefore, the Court reasoned that animal dignity must be protected, and to that effect, the TNRJ Act is invalid and such sports are illegal.

Paramjeet Singh
Hello Everyone, I am Paramjeet Singh, a first year B.A.LL.B. student from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law,Patiala. Being a law student, I love to do writing and researching upon different legal related issues. I have a keen interest in Contract, Constitution, Competition and Human Right law. Also, I have a great interest in participating in various National or International moots and Debating competitions.