Jallikattu – The Tug of War


It all started in 2014 with the Environment Ministry adding ‘bulls’ to the 1991 notification which prohibits the exhibition and training of tigers, monkeys, dogs, panthers and bears. However, the Centre, for the honor and sanctity of age old tradition of Jallikattu soon amended the list of animals, giving Jallikattu, the privilege to be an exception. Jallikattu, in simple words is a bull taming sport practiced in Tamil Nadu, wherein the bulls are first agitated and aggravated using  various means like poking and beating, thereafter, the wild bull is then released into the crowd of participants. The sport requires the participants to tame the bull and in some cases untie a cloth on the horns of bull. The sport is dangerous both, for the bulls as well as men. The bulls for this sport are specially bred and trained.  Also, a Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act was passed in 2009 to  manage the affairs of the sport which was intimately later struck down by the Supreme Court. However, despite such regulatory efforts, the non- implementation of the clauses related to safety of bull has considerably attracted the attention of animal activists and NGOs. Finally on May 7th, 2014, The Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgement in favor of the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA, and held that bulls can no longer be used for sports and fights in Jallikattu and banned the celebration of such festival in which the rights of bull were violated. The centre revoked the ban after widespread protest which was again challenged by PETA. The tug of war has been going on since. The Supreme Court again declared that, “India cannot import Roman gladiator type sport”. The Centre has shown reluctancy in promulgating any ordinance for the sake of the sport as the matter is sub judice.The natives of Tamil Nadu have raised a hue and cry about it and then demanded the promulgation of an ordinance by the State Government which makes Jallikattu an exception to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Every Coin is Two Faced

The animal activists and the PETA representatives, naturally, have raised their voice against this festival which poses a threat to the lives of the bulls involved. The bulls are aggravated physically and mentally first by beating, poking, pulling tail and various other methods, which is undoubtedly cruel. Moreover, during the sport, the participating men are supposed to hang on to the hump of the bull until it is tamed and and untie a cloth on the bull’s horns. Over the years, several bulls as well as people have injured themselves during this sport. Moreover, the safeguards laid down in the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009, are not practically implemented.

On the other hand , this sport is centuries old and is claimed to have become a custom and tradition of the natives of Tamil Nadu. The advocates of Jallikattu firmly state that the bulls are specially bred for this sport and are taken care of meticulously. Moreover, according to them this sport establishes a harmonious relationship between man and the bull. Furthermore, the ban on Jallikattu will pave the way for the specially bred bulls being sold at low prices and hence endanger the promotion of a strong and native breed of bulls. This is another great concern for the people who are in favor of Jallikattu.

Promulgation of Ordinance  

The State government of Tamil Nadu promulgated an ordinance in January 2017, owing to the volatile state of affairs in Tamil Nadu. The ordinance  aims to make certain amendments to the central PCA Act, 1960, as an effect of which certain rules of the act would be different for the State of Tamil Nadu. As a result of which Jallikattu could be exempted from the scope of the act. The centre did not itself promulgate such an ordinance as the matter is sub judice. The matter of prevention of cruelty to animals falls under Entry 17 of the Concurrent list of the Constitution of India, which means that both, the state and the centre has power to make laws on the particular matter. However, again, if there is conflict between the state law and the central law, the central law prevails until and unless the assent of the President is received for the law enacted by State. The draft of the ordinance prepared by the State government was sent to the President for his assent. The assent was given and hence the ordinance was promulgated by the Governor.

The purpose of the ordinance is to promote and protect Jallikattu as a holy tradition. The ordinance amended section 3, section 11 and section 22 of the PCA Act, 1960, which overall has the effect of keeping Jallikattu out of the scope of the act. Moreover, section 28A was added which clearly states that ‘nothing in the act will apply to Jallikattu’. This is basically done to nullify the grounds on which the Supreme Court gave it’s verdict in 2015.  Many famous personalities including filmstars and lawyers have supported Jallikattu throughout. However, the natives are not satisfied with the promulgation of Ordinance as they continue to violently protest and demand a permanent solution. It is to be be noted that the validity of the Ordinance is good to go unless it is challenged, stayed, suspended or set aside by a Court of law. Furthermore, a special assembly was called right after the promulgation of the Ordinance to replace it with a permanent legislation. The bill was tabled by the Chief Minister, Mr. Panneerselvam and was subsequently cleared by total majority.


The passing of the legislation by the Tamil Nadu legislature is certainly not the end. This state legislation could further be challenged in the Supreme Court or a Public Interest Litigation may be filed. The legislation comes under judicial review of the apex court. It can still  be challenged on various grounds like ‘Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals and should not be provided an exception to the PCA Act’. The bone of contention remains whether tradition should prevail over the rights of animals. The task of the Supreme Court is made harder by the fact that it is difficult to harmonize the vivid interests of the society with diversified customs while maintaining the sanctity and basic structure of the Constitution.

Authored By:


Student Ambassador

LexisNexis India



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