A five-judge Constitution bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar said that it is the case of the Tamil Nadu government that these bulls are trained and treated with the greatest of affection.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some of the petitioners, said taking care of the bull is good but that does not mean that one can subject the animal to cruelty.
The bench, during the hearing, observed the ultimate question might be whether the bull-taming sport, dubbed by many as cruel to animals, can be allowed in any form.
Divan said that despite the “cosmetic change”, compelling the bull to fight with all the best safeguards still amounts to cruelty to the animal.
The arguments in the matter will continue on Thursday.
The Supreme Court started hearing the pleas challenging Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra government laws on November 24.
Tamil Nadu government in its affidavit stated that Jallikattu is “not merely an act of entertainment or amusement but an event with great historical, cultural and religious value.”
Jallikattu is conducted during the Pongal festival as thanksgiving for a good harvest and subsequent festivals are conducted in temples which shows that the event has great cultural and spiritual significance, it added.
In February 2018, the Supreme Court referred to the Constitution bench whether the people of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra can conserve Jallikattu and bullock-cart races as their cultural right and demand their protection under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution.
The top court had earlier said that the petitions challenging the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017, needed to be decided by a larger bench since they involved substantial questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution.
It had said that a larger bench would decide whether states have the “legislative competence” to make such laws on grounds, including that Jallikattu and bullock cart racing fell under the cultural rights enshrined under Article 29(1) and can be protected constitutionally.
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra had amended the central law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and allowed Jallikattu and bullock cart racing, respectively.
The petitions were filed in the top court challenging the state laws.
A batch of petitions, led by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sought direction to quash the Jallikattu law passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, which brought bulls back into the fold of “performing animals”.
PETA had challenged the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill 2017 passed by the state assembly on several grounds, including that it circumvented the apex court verdict holding the bull-taming sport as “illegal” in the state.
The top court had earlier dismissed the Tamil Nadu government’s plea seeking a review of the 2014 judgement banning the use of bulls for Jallikattu events in the state and bullock cart races across the country.