Posted On 21/02/2012 By In Investigation & Analysis With 1866 Views

‘The politics and the lawmaking of Jalikattu’ Part I – by Radha Rajan

This article is authored by Ms Radha Rajan, the editor of and is reprinted here with her permission. The original article can be see here

All contact sport – man versus man, man versus animal and animal versus animal is raw human violence in action; violence barely held in check and which even the force of ‘civilization’ has failed to eliminate. Bloodier-the-better is the governing tenet of all such contact sport. Hunting – forest animals, whales, seals, dogs, cats, rats and cockroaches, is not even the subject of this article; neither is the horrifying mass slaughter of farm animals to satisfy the insatiable human greed and fad to eat animal corpses, or the growing degradation in the act of sacrificing animals for religion.

The linear march of humans described as advance, progress, development is matched only by the reactive and speedier fall in the reverse direction as humans become increasingly more destructive, disrespectful and uncaring towards animals and the environment.

Urge to control, to dominate, to consciously inflict pain, and to kill are unique to the human species; soccer, football and boxing top the list of contact sport rousing their audiences to violent frenzy. These confrontational sports are sometimes intentionally flavoured with sexism and racism to give the frenzy a killing edge.

Tamil Nadu has its own variant of man versus animal contact sport; only jallikattu, rekla, manju virattu and erudhotam use hapless bulls as victims for the human urge to conquer and violently subjugate animals. In the process, the de-culturised and debased men who play this ugly sport have on several occasions caused the death of bulls during the course of the event.

Year after year, bull-fighters, soaring high on country liquor, and the equally inebriated and violent men who gather to see this debased and decadent ‘culture,’ have been killed or seriously injured by extremely traumatised and frightened bulls. The dead and injured men paid the price for clothing their naked cruelty against animals and their violent abuse in the fig-leaf of valour, culture and tradition.

Persistent efforts by animal welfare organizations and compassionate individuals to end this bloody and cruel sport has met with very little success because the political economy – meat and animal hide industry, and use of animals for sport – which rests on cruelty against animals, adds to the state’s exchequer.

Less understood is judicial impotence and unwillingness to take note of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 60) in its totality and forever end all sanctioned cruelty against animals.

We can only suspect that jallikattu is allowed to be conducted because large donations by the granite cartel and affluent local traders and businesses to all political parties big and small, and liberal application of palm grease, has a role to play in not ending the abuse of animals for sport and which has placed the state’s political class, with no dissenting voice or murmur, on the side of the abusers.

Animal welfare organizations and individuals who want this to end are therefore up against not just the moneybags behind this cruelty, but also a hostile polity and an unmoving judiciary.

To describe briefly the horrific cruelty in the games involving bulls:

  • Bulls are administered steroids to drive up their energy level; in effect these steroids cause the bulls to resist the physical abuse inflicted upon them with greater ferocity
  • In sharp contrast, in some venues crude spirit, alcohol and country liquor is poured into the mouths of bulls to weaken them physically, and thus slow down their resistance; this in turn, in inverse proportion increases the fear quotient in the bulls so that the drunken louts ‘taming’ the bull look brave and valorous
  • Some organizers and bull owners pull the tail, pinch the genitals, and rub tobacco, chilly-powder or mud in the eyes, tail and genitals of the bulls shortly prior to the event to enrage the animals, rouse them to frenzy and give the sport a killing edge
  • Jallikattu is played in open ground where anywhere between 3 and twenty or fifty brave men run screaming and shouting behind a single frightened bull, catch it by the tail or cling for their lives to the bull’s horns and then collectively push the bull down on the ground head first, to the frenzied and hysterical shouts of approval from a debased crowd

  • Rekla is a bloody sport where two helpless and frightened bulls are hitched to a rickety cart and several carts race each other for a distance between two or five kilometers; the cart driver prods/lashes the bulls with his whip or stick continuously until the end of the race by which time the whip and the backs of the bulls are soaked in blood

  • In Manju Virattu and Erudhottam the bulls are forced to run along the streets and roads of a town or village with screaming hordes of men and brats running behind the bulls to catch them and halt their run; this is the Tamil version of the equally debased Spanish bull-run

Frightened bulls running for their lives have knocked themselves in sheer panic against any object on the streets and on the roads; in the process they have been seriously injured or physically abused by the men. Panic-stricken bulls have fractured their legs, broken their horns, suffered irreparable injuries to their eyes and have even been killed.

This is the visible cruelty seen during the conduct of the sport. The lives of the bulls before and after the event reared and kept in isolation, forever tethered between two poles, trained to view humans as their worst enemies, deprived of human company and the company of their own, and finally sent to slaughter for meat, is the invisible, unseen and little-known cruelty.

Far worse than the sport itself is the training process of the bulls because this is nothing less than psychological abuse of the animals compounding the physical abuse and therefore beyond remedy unless the sport itself is banned. As part of their training, the bulls are tied to two poles on either side, effectively immobilizing the animal. The bull is then ‘trained’ so painfully that its flailing head and horns repeatedly thrash against the ground in pain, anger and protest. See this article in The Hindu

Notwithstanding the raw cruelty of the sport, animal welfare organizations and animal rights activists have not succeeded in getting these sports banned by the courts; and as judges continue to sit on their hands, turn a Nelson’s eye and sport with the PCA Act, bulls, buffalo, sheep, bulbuls and cocks, reared specially to be used for these debased and aasuric sports, continue to live a life of trauma and abuse.

It is inherent human depravity that trains animals and birds to fight and kill each other simply as outlet for latent human violence and taste for blood.
View video of a rooster fight in Tamilnadu
View video of a Ram fight in Tamilnadu

The depravity of forcing bulls to live a life in isolation, trained to resist and injure humans, must be weighed against the fact that cattle, like goats, sheep, dogs, cats, chicken and other birds, are beings which live amidst humans in the same habitat. For any of these animals and birds to be trained to kill humans or kill each other for sport is to violate the laws of nature besides abusing the animal’s natural faith and trust in humans and their willingness to live with us.

Hindu Dharma gave to the world the priceless concept that all Creation is a manifestation of the Divine and that no creature is separate from or different from the Param Atma. The soul that inhabits the body of humans and non-humans, of every being – sensate and insensate, is the same soul because they are all parts of the same Param Atma.

How can people raised on this civilizational value perpetrate himsa against animals in the name of culture, tradition and religion.

Animal Rights only on paper, Judiciary as paper tiger

The South Indian Humanitarian League and Blue Cross of India in the last 39 years repeatedly petitioned the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state legislature to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls, with little success however; the case reached TN courts and subsequently the Supreme Court only in 2004.

In 2004, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Khalifulla passed an order on rekla with the rider that the organizers should cause no injury to the animals! The learned judge pronounced the oxymoron order in response to a petition filed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking court directive to the police to permit the conduct of rekla in connection with a temple festival in Ramanathapuram. The petitioner went to the High Court because the local police refused permission to conduct this brutal sport.

In 2006, another petitioner who was refused permission by the police to conduct jallikattu, approached the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court again for court directive to permit the event; another petition in the same court was filed by the father of a man who was killed during jallikattu the previous year.

This time, Justice R Banumathi, taking note of the purview of the PCA Act in its entirety, in a stern order banned “all types of jallikattu, rekla race, oxen race or any other entertainment involving causing cruelty to animals”. Justice Banumathi, adhering to the letter and spirit of the PCA Act, went beyond jallikattu which alone was the object of the petition, and pronounced an order banning all sport involving use of bulls.

The petitioner, who was seeking court permission to conduct jallikattu, went in appeal against Justice Banumathi’s order and the case was heard by a division bench of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and P.P.S. Janarthana Raja. On March 9, 2007, the division bench set aside the order of the single judge and allowed jallikattu with conditions attached to the order – conditions which applied to ‘Performing Animals’ under the PCA Act.

The conditions were:

  • Owners of bulls must register their animals with the Animal Welfare Board of India one month in advance
  • Bulls must be certified by a vet as being healthy and fit to be allowed to participate in the events lasting several months across several districts of Tamil Nadu
  • At every event bull tamers will be tested by doctors for alcohol consumption
  • Bulls should not be given alcohol prior to the event
  • Bulls must not be administered steroids and the veterinary doctors stationed at the venue must ensure that bulls have not been abused by owners rubbing chilly-powder, tobacco and mud in their eyes, tails and genitals
  • All events must receive written permission from the local magistrate

The TN state government was made respondent in the case and the argument placed by the state government before the court was that Jallikattu must be allowed to be held because it was a huge tourist attraction, and some of the larger venues for Jallikattu like Alanganallur in Madurai District attracted thousands of foreign tourists every year.

Tourism is big business and if the tourists are foreigners then the business is even bigger. Alanganallur jallikattu is a state-sponsored event and for all reasons abhorrent to animal rights activists, the division bench, completely ignoring the letter and spirit of the PCA Act. delivered a judgment which in effect meant – that human abuse of animals and cruelty would now be monitored and regulated.

To say that jallikattu will be allowed to be held under strict supervision and that all major events will be monitored and regulated is akin to saying untouchability, rape, and child abuse will be permitted with conditions attached, and will be strictly monitored and regulated.

The division bench stipulated monitoring of jallikattu by the local magistrate, district collector, veterinary officers, AWBI volunteers and police, and thereby placed bulls on the list of ‘Performing Animals’.

It is not clear if the division bench became all creative and decided of its own volition to include bulls in the Performing Animals list because that would be one way to monitor the sport without banning it, or if the TN state government asked for it just so jallikattu would be allowed to be conducted and the government could rake in the moolah.

It bears mention that the granite cartel which owns bull farms to train animals for jalikattu, wields considerable clout cutting across political parties and political ideology. To be a money bag bull-owner had acquired the same status as being the owner of a stud farm for breeding and training race horses.

For the first time in the sordid history of the sport, bulls were termed Performing Animals in a Machiavellian move to facilitate the conduct of jallikattu and other bloody sports using bulls. Such was the desperation of the TN government, bull owners and other organizers to conduct the sport that they submitted to classifying bulls as Performing Animals and were forced to comply with the court-directed regulation and monitoring of jallikattu.

The TN government did not challenge the classification, secure in the knowledge that it would be impossible to monitor all events minutely. As things turned out and as the meticulous report compiled by Prakash Sasha, volunteer for the AWBI in January 2012 proves, even in the major venues of Alanganallur, Palamedu, Siravayal and Avaniyapuram, Supreme Court directives to regulate jallikattu were not only ignored but violated with impunity. Thus far, no arrests have been made and no animal has been impounded.

Not surprisingly, the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body like the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women, did not buy the Performing Animal lemon sold by the High Court. AWBI and other animal welfare organizations did not accept the argument that because bulls were now Performing Animals, the cruelty inherent to the sport could be ended.

The AWBI took the case to the Supreme Court seeking an immediate stay on the order of the division bench in the Madras High Court, and demanding a complete ban on jallikattu.

Acting on the Special Leave Petition of the AWBI, the Supreme Court, on July 27, 2007 in its interim order, first stayed the order of the division bench of the Madras High Court, and on January 11, 2008 pronounced its final order by banning jallikattu but permitting rekla.

The writer has been worried by the fact that animal welfare organizations, including AWBI, have fragmented bull-sports making jallikattu their only object of concern; instead of fighting for all bulls used in all sports – jallikattu, rekla, manju virattu and erudottam, and for all animals used in every kind of killer sport – buffalo fight, cock fight, bulbul fight, sheep fight – the AWBI has made only jalikattu the object of its concerns in the courts.

The courts have naturally taken advantage of this fragmented approach and the Supreme Court with Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik on the bench, while banning jallikattu as was asked for in the AWBI petition, permitted rekla which is bloodier and more cruel because each race lasts for several minutes; some organizers hang spiked, metal thorns from the yoke which swing on both sides of the bulls’ necks, drawing blood.

The final order of the Supreme Court was delivered on January 11, 2008, very close to Pongal, but with enough time given to the state government and organizers of jallikattu to appeal against the order if they so wished; and of course they did.

On 13 Jan 2008, the TN government filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking revision and modification of the Jan 11 order. The same bench comprising Justices Raveendran and Patnaik, which had pronounced the order on Jan 11, heard the petition filed on Jan 13 and on Jan 15, on the day of Pongal, delivered another order (an interim order, for those who like cold comfort and cold soup) allowing jallikattu to be held.

As a sop which convinced no one and as a palliative which cured nothing, Justice Raveendran did a Elipe Dharma Rao and placed conditions on the conduct of the sport; conditions which, the writer pointed out earlier, are observed more in the breach and which have been proved to be completely ineffective.

In 2008, the letter, spirit and purpose of the PCA Act had been ignored yet again by our courts, to the detriment of animal interests and their well-being. AWBI promptly filed another Special Leave Petition in the SC seeking restoration of the SC order dated January 11, 2008 which had banned jallikattu and allowed rekla.

Even as the case was pending in the Supreme Court and the courts were seen to be dragging their feet, the TN government took advantage of the delay and in an act of defiance, passed the TN Jallikattu Regulation Act, 2009. The Act was rushed through the state assembly and with no protests or dissent from any political party inside the assembly, from the Treasury benches or from the principal opposition, the Bill became an Act.

For fear of raising a storm among animal welfare organizations and animal rights activists, if news of the proposed Act were to be made public, the TN government by-passed due process by not offering the Bill for public scrutiny before passing it in the state assembly. Stake-holders and parties affected by the passing of the Bill were not informed about the impending Act and were denied the right to express their views and concerns. This was gross violation of due process that is mandatory before converting a Bill into an Act.

The Tamil Nadu Act has to be seen as an amendment to the PCA Act 1960; and when any State or Union Territory brings in an amendment to a Central Act then it is mandatory for the State not only to receive Governor’s assent to the amendment but also Presidential assent. Readers must bear this in mind for what followed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in January 2012.

As the case moves at snail’s pace in the Supreme Court with ineffective and repetitive interim orders delivered between long intervals, once in November 2010 and again in March 2011, by the same division bench in the Supreme Court making the same polite noises about regulation, monitoring and supervision, the trauma of the bulls continues with no end in sight.

From 2004 when the case first went to the courts, up until January 2012, year after year these debased sport events have been held, uninterrupted, not just in Tamil Nadu and Assam but across India.

Law cannot be different things to different people

In July 2011, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Shri Jairam Ramesh earned the gratitude of all animal welfare organizations and activists when he placed Bulls on the list of animals which shall not be deemed to be Performing Animals. However, it is the writer’s considered view that the very idea of classifying other animals as Performing Animals violates the spirit and purpose of the PCA Act.

There is a history behind the classification of some animals as Performing Animals and those that may not be considered to be Performing Animals.

On 14 March 1991, the Ministry of Environment & Forests issued a notification under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, banning with immediate effect the training and exhibition of all animals. The notification was stayed by the Delhi High Court on an appeal filed by the Indian Circus Federation. Overnight, a new organization came into being – the Circus Fans Association – purely owned and subscribed to by circus owners.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests filed a counter-petition in the High Court to uphold the ban and all action on the list proscribing use of animals for purposes of exhibition and entertainment has moved to the Courts.

Not wanting to be seen to be unresponsive to serious concerns about the innate cruelty and misery of the lives of animals used in circuses, and to get around the paralysis inflicted upon the government because the matter was now in the High Court, the Government of India, in the Department of Environment and Forests, issued a second notification dated 14-10-1998 (Annexure-1) under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 putting restriction on exhibition or training of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions with effect from the date of publication of the notification.

Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, before he was summarily removed from the ministry, gladdened the hearts of all animal welfare organizations and animal rights activists, when in July 2011, he included Bulls on the list of animals which may not be deemed to be Performing Animals and may therefore not be allowed to be trained, exhibited or used in sport. For good measure, the Ministry of Environment and Forests added that Bulls meant cows, the progeny of cows, bulls, buffalo and oxen; the gazette notification also added that oxen included both castrated and not castrated bulls and oxen.

If the earlier list proscribing the use of bears, lions, tigers, monkeys and panthers effectively banned circus owners from owning or using these animals to perform in circuses, it follows that this list should have brought all sport using bulls – jallikattu, rekla, manju virattu, erudhotam, buffalo fight – to an immediate end with effect from the day of the notification of the list in the Gazette Extraordinary.

It did not happen. As we shall see, the law is different things for different people.

Armed with the July 2011 notification by the MoE&F, AWBI and the writer filed two separate petitions in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court asking the court to ban jallikattu. The writer’s case was presented in the court by senior advocate Yashod Vardhan, a lawyer of great erudition, eminence, a person of integrity and above all a person with a spiritual slant to his character. In short, senior advocate Yashod Vardhan was the best choice to present the case against cruelty to animals.

On 12 Jan 2012, when the case came up for hearing in the Madurai Bench, AWBI was represented by advocate Jayesh Dolia and between the two of them a perfect and legally air-tight case was presented before the division bench of Justices Chitra Venkatraman and R. Karuppiah.

Even before senior advocate Yashod Vardhan could sit down after a brilliant exposition on why jallikattu could not be allowed to be conducted because it was legally unsustainable on every count, Justice Chitra Venkatraman, not once but three times, announced that the division bench was banning jallikattu with immediate effect.

Within moments of Justice Venkatraman pronouncing that the division bench was banning jallikattu, there was mayhem in the court. The judges were surrounded by shouting men with the Addl. Advocate General shouting loudest to the judge that she should not pass the order (put down the order in writing) as this would cause law and order problems in the state and that the court should grant the state government 24 hours to be heard. See on the issue see the article in The Hindu “High Court questions government favouring jallikattu”

We will never know what transpired in the 24 hours between 12 and 13 Jan; what we do know is that when the Advocate General flew down from Delhi in great panic, the State Government had still not received Presidential Assent to the TN Jallikattu Regulation Act.

We also know now that the incumbent Minister of State for Environment and Forests was incensed with the AWBI for making the Ministry a respondent in the case. The Minister Jayanthi Natarajan allegedly had some official in the ministry contact the AWBI and after issuing a veiled threat about AWBI being dependent on government funds for their functioning, also demanded that all office bearers of AWBI step down from their posts if they refused to back off from their demand to ban jallikattu.

Calls were also made to other lawyers asking them to dilute their stand, to back off, to refuse to represent the petitioners – anything to allow jallikattu to be conducted. The writer was certain that considering the fact that the state government and the organizers had not manufactured any legally sustainable argument in 24 hours, Justice Chitra Venkatraman who was breathing fire the day before would take just minutes to pass the orders she had pronounced verbally on 12 January.

That did not happen. In a complete turnaround, a subdued Justice Chitra Venkatraman allowed Advocate General Guru Krishnakumar to lie in open court on two counts without a word of judicial reprimand even after senior advocate Yashod Vardhan pointedly proved the Advocate General wrong. The bench did not murmur even a word of protest when the Addl. Solicitor General representing the Central Government and its July 2011 notification in court on that day, spoke in a manner that was seen to be in favour of allowing jallikattu to be conducted.

The man, instead of arguing strongly that the July 2011 notification on animals which may not be deemed to be Performing Animals must prevail just as the March 14, 1991 notification of the list of animals proscribed as Performing Animals has prevailed, instead brazenly abdicated his responsibility as Addl. Solicitor-General and betrayed the PCA Act when he failed to put up a strong defence of the MoEF notification.

It is difficult to imagine how the Addl. Solicitor-General can abdicate his responsibility to defend and assert the notification of the Central Government unless he was explicitly ordered to do so. The fire-breathing dragon had been doused with cold water, that much was certain. The judges allowed the lies of the Addl. Advocate General to pass without comment just as they allowed the Addl. Solicitor-General to abdicate his responsibility.

The division bench, if we cut through the verbiage and inane palliatives, allowed jallikattu to be conducted with the same repetitive injunction to the state government and to the organizers to abide by Supreme Court directives on jallikattu.

A dog is not a monkey is not a bear is not an elephant

PCA Act is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The operative part is ‘prevention of cruelty’. This is the letter, spirit and purpose of the law. There cannot be different or contrary interpretations of the law among judges in the same court, among judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court and by the same judges in any court on different days.

But as we shall see, for judges of the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court, the PCA Act is a dog is a monkey is a bear is an elephant; intriguingly, a dog is also not a dog on another day.

  • When Justice Ibrahim Khalifulla allowed rekla in 2004, and permitted jallikattu by default, the PCA Act was applied selectively in favour of bulls in one sport and permitted cruelty against other bulls in other sports.
  • If Justice Banumathi understood the PCA Act for what it is in its entirety, that Prevention of Cruelty to Animals demanded that the law should prevent cruelty, then Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and Janarthana Raja understood Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to mean cruelty against animals may be permitted as long as the cruelty can be regulated, monitored and supervised
  • The Supreme Court stayed the order of the division bench of Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and Janarthana Raja in July 2007 because the Supreme Court understood Prevention of Cruelty to Animals differently from the division bench of the Madras High Court
  • On Jan 11, 2008 when Justices Raveendran and Patnaik of the Supreme Court banned jallikattu but explicitly permitted rekla, the judges applied the PCA Act differently for the bulls used for jallikattu and bulls used in rekla
  • When Justices Raveendran and Patnaik banned jallikattu on 11 Jan 2008 and then did a complete turnaround on the 15th and pronounced the order permitting jallikattu, the Supreme Court understood the PCA Act to be something on the 11th and a totally different, even exact opposite thing on the 15th
  • When Justices Chitra Venkatraman and Karuppiah verbally banned jallikattu three times on 12 Jan 2012, and then in a complete turnaround exactly like the Supreme Court in January 2008, passed the exact opposite order on the 13th

AWBI must be faulted for never going to the courts proactively to ban all contact sports using animals. Thus far it has only been reactive in the courts. If AWBI must dispel the impression that it is a toothless wonder dependent on the central government for its gruel, it must bang the doors of the Supreme Court with a petition which demands a total and comprehensive ban across the country on all killer/confrontational sports using animals and birds.

The AWBI cannot be reduced to an impotent watchdog entity; if it has to be anything at all it has to be an assertive, proactive body whose only mandate is to ensure that the central and all state governments, all High Courts and the Supreme Court and every wing of government administration is compelled to implement the PCA in its entirety – letter, spirit and purpose.

Ahimsa cannot be a two day fad in this country. It is the responsibility of the judiciary to prove that he who pays the piper does not call the tune.

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