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HC maintains bullock cart racing ban in the State

Thursday, October 12, 2017
By Philip Varghese

The Bombay High Court referred to the 2014 Supreme Court judgment which stated that bulls are anatomically unfit for racing

More than a month after the Bombay High Court prohibited the state from granting any permission allowing bullock cart racing before framing rules as envisaged in the new amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the High Court on Wednesday passed an order stating that it is bound by the observations and views of the 2014 Supreme Court judgment that banned bullock cart races across the country.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N.M. Jamdar was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Ajay Marathe, who sought a stay on a race that was to take place in his district in Pune last month, as he described the practice of bullock cart racing as cruel.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had filed an intervention application to the PIL. The petitioners lawyers had argued that the government has the authority to amend the Principal Act, but not to insert provisions that are contrary to the Act itself as the races are cruel towards animals. In 2014, bullock cart races were were banned by the High Court on grounds of violation of the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals Act. After Tamil Nadu’s decision to bring in a law to regulate 'jalikattu', the state government of Maharashtra was under a lot of political pressure to start the bullock cart races in the name of preserving the culture and tradition of the state.

During the hearing, the senior counsel appearing for the state submitted that the state government laid out rules detailing how bullock cart races may be conducted. However, the High Court bench pointed out that the Supreme Court has categorically stated that bulls are not anatomically suited to racing. The 2014 Supreme Court judgment also noted that bullock cart races are inherently cruel – causing the animals excruciating fear, pain, and suffering – and hence cannot be purported to promote tradition or culture, the stated intent of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2017, and the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules, 2017.  Further, the High Court also clarified that no bullock cart races shall be conducted in Maharashtra, even if the state government notifies the new rules. The matter is likely to come up again after Diwali.

PETA Lead of Public Policy Nikunj Sharma, said, “The Bombay High Court showed that compassion triumphs over cruelty and that bullock cart races have no place in a civilised society. Although Maharashtra has stood for protecting cows and bulls from slaughter, the state law that has been challenged in the courts runs completely counter to this stance against harm. Scientifically, it has been proved that bulls are traumatised when subjected to fear and pain, which are inherent in bullock cart races.”

On July 19, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2017, received the President's approval, and on July 31, it was published in the Maharashtra Government Gazette. However, in the PIL filed by Marathe on August 16, the High Court of Bombay stayed the operation of the Act while directing the state to provide the mechanism or procedure under which bullock cart races could be conducted without causing the animals any pain or suffering, as observed by the Supreme Court. On September 19, the State Government filed an affidavit explaining its reasons for allowing bullock cart races and placed the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules, 2017, before the court. PETA filed a petition in the Supreme Court last month seeking direction from the Court to strike down the state laws that legalise bullock cart races.

The Supreme Court judgment...
Through its landmark judgment of 2014, the Supreme Court of India made clear that spectacles that harm bulls, such as bullock cart races, violate The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, and the provisions of the Constitution of India. The Court came to this well-considered conclusion after having allowed such races in 2013 under certain conditions – which are similar to those of the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules, 2017 – and following years of deliberation and consideration of evidence submitted to it by the Animal Welfare Board of India and the petitioners, including PETA.

Following investigations in 2013 of bullock cart races under Supreme Court-imposed regulations in Maharashtra, PETA released a detailed report and video footage documenting the systemic abuse of bullocks in an apparent direct violation of the PCA Act. The report stated that participants deprived bullocks of food, water, and shade; forcibly yanked them by nose ropes, causing their noses to bleed; and physically abused them in order to force them to run – even when exhausted – by biting and twisting their tails, striking them, and rubbing irritants into their mouths.

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