SCO Daily: Supreme Court Upholds Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu

The Supreme Court held that Jallikattu and bullock-cart racing were protected as cultural practices under Article 29 of the Constitution.

Welcome to SCO Daily. Today, a 5-Judge Bench upheld the practice of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, and bullock-cart racing in Maharashtra and Karnataka. A Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph heard challenges to a 2017 Tamil Nadu Amendment which allowed Jallikattu and introduced rules to govern its practice.

Jallikattu was banned in 2014 in Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja, after the Supreme Court held that bull taming and bullock-cart racing caused unnecessary pain and suffering. It said that these practices subjected bulls to cruel treatment under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. However, this ban was undone through a Union government notification in January 2016. The notification allowed the practice, but imposed several additional restrictions for organising Jallikattu events. One year later the Tamil Nadu Government enacted the 2017 Amendment which was challenged by various animal rights groups including People for Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA at the Supreme Court. Challenges were also filed against similar amendments permitting bullock-cart racing, enacted in Maharashtra and Karnataka. 

In the Judgement today, the Supreme Court looked into whether the sport of Jallikattu was protected as a cultural right under Article 29 of the Constitution of India. They also considered if the Amendments in question contradicted the A. Nagaraja Judgement.

In A. Nagaraja held that there is no evidence to prove Jallikattu was a part of Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage. However, the Bench today stated that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that Jallikattu was not a part of cultural heritage. They further said that the Judiciary cannot decide if Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamil Nadu culture. Only the Tamil Nadu legislature can decide that it’s a cultural practice. The Court observed that the Tamil Nadu legislature had already recognised the cultural value of the practice when it enacted the 2017 Amendment and refused to ‘disrupt’ this view. 

The 5-Judge Bench noted that cruelty against animals was the main focus in Nagaraja. They held that the Tamil Nadu Amendment fixed that, by laying down rules to minimise cruelty and bring Jallikattu within the confines of the law.

As the Court was also examining the Maharashtra and Karnataka amendments, it held that the decision in the case will apply to the two states. Now, Kambala in Karnataka, and Bailgada Sharyat in Maharashtra may be practised in accordance with the Amendments and applicable rules. 

As per a recent report by the Hindu, PETA said it is exploring legal remedies to protect bulls after this verdict. 

Visit to read more about the case. Make sure to check out our Judgment matrix where we break down the case for you.