Animals have no rights, but can’t be treated cruelly: SC

Supreme Court

New Delhi, Nov 9 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday said animals may not have rights but they cannot be subjected to cruelty by humans.

Further hammering the point, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said what is embedded in the Constitution and the statutes cannot be taken away by a notification.

“How can you take away something that is constitutionally embedded,” the court asked, pointing out that January 7 notification permitting the “use of bulls for Jallikattu” and cart race took away the very basis of May 7, 2014, Supreme Court judgment that had banned Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.

In an observation, the bench asked Tamil Nadu counsel that on one hand you are worshiping a cow describing her as holy, and on the other hand you are torturing bulls. “How is this?”

The January 7 notification, while retaining bulls in the list of animals prohibited from being used for public performances or exhibition has carved out an exception permitting their use for Jallikattu with a rider that they would not be inflicted with any cruelty.

The apex court by its May 7, 2014, order had banned Tamil Nadu’s centuries-old Jallikattu — bull fights — saying that bulls could not be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock cart races.

Holding that Jallikattu, bullock cart race and such events per se violate the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act, the apex court by its May 7, 2014, verdict had said: “Parliament, it is expected, would elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many of the countries around the world, so as to protect their dignity and honour.”

The court’s observations came in the course of hearing of a batch of petitions by NGOs Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, Animal Equality, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, the Animal Welfare Board of India, and animal right activist Gauri Maulekhi challenging the notification.

Even as Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha sought to defend the state notification, Justice Nariman said that the notification purported to take away the very basis of the 2014 judgment.

“Do you remove the very basis of the (2014) judgment? It is based and founded on constitutional provision, we don’t think you will be able to remove,” bench told Narasimha. “How does a bull get trained? Once an animal is prohibited for being used for entertainment, then how you can have a proviso indirectly providing for other purposes (Jallikattu)?”

The bench observed, “Either you allow (public performances or exhibition of bulls) or you completely prohibit it, you can’t have both.”

As Tamil Nadu told the court that the hearing on the plea challenging January 7 notification should take place only after its review petition seeking recall of the 2014 verdict is decided, the bench said that it would hear both pleas — for the recall of 2014 verdict and batch of petitions challenging January 7 notification — on November 16.

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