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Law and Identity

The government’s efforts to bypass the apex court’s ruling on Jallikattu set a dangerous precedent.

Since when did a “sport” followed by a section of people become a marker of identity? How often will governments bend to popular pressure to amend the law and defy court rulings? The back and forth between the judiciary and the legislature over the ban on Jallikattu has been largely responsible for the apparently spontaneous demonstrations in support of it in Tamil Nadu. Both the government’s response and the invoking of Tamil identity are worrying developments.

The ban on Jallikattu itself has existed on and off since 2006, when the Madras High Court first banned it after the death of a young spectator. The ban was subsequently lifted in 2009 with the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009. After it was found that the regulations were not being followed and that bulls were indeed being subjected to cruelty as defined under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a petition. Consequently, in 2014 the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu and struck down the 2009 act. In what could be seen as a clearly political move, in January 2016, the union environment ministry revoked the ban by issuing a notification months before the elections in Tamil Nadu were due to be held. This was immediately challenged by the AWBI and PETA in the Supreme Court, which stayed the notification. The case is still being heard and so far the Court has not delivered its final verdict.

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Updated On : 27th Jan, 2017

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