Environment ministry wants to amend section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which deals with restrictions on exhibition and training of performing animals
New Delhi: It’s been a little over five months since the Supreme Court retained the ban on jallikattu, a bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu, and the environment ministry is already readying an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to allow such the cultural practice.
The Prakash Javadekar-led ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) sent a draft amendment to the law and justice ministry on 15 June and has already got a clearance from it to go ahead with it. If passed by the cabinet, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (amendment) Bill, 2016 may be brought to Parliament as early as the upcoming monsoon session.
According to the documents reviewed by Mint, the environment ministry wants to amend section 22 of the Act which deals with restrictions on exhibition and training of performing animals.
The section specifies that “as a performing animal, any animal which the Central Government may, by notification in the official gazette, specify as an animal which shall not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal".
The MoEFCC, through the amendment, wants to add a new sub section to section 22.
“Any animal notified in the official gazette, in exercise of the powers conferred under sub section (II) of section 22 of the Act shall continue to be exhibited or trained as a performing animal, at events, in a manner prescribed the religion of any community, or practiced traditionally under the customs or as a part of the culture, in any part of the country. These events may, inter-alia, include jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala, Gujarat, etc," reads the draft amendment.
“Provided that events so organized shall be held with prior approval of the district authority concerned and shall be duly monitored by the district SPCA and state animal welfare board (as representative of animal welfare board) ensuring that no unnecessary pain and suffering is inflicted or caused, in a manner, whatsoever during the course of events so organized," the proposed amendment added.
The law ministry also seems to be on board.
“It is pertinent to mention that the subject matter of the note is relatable to entry 17 (PCA) of the concurrent list of the seventh schedule to the Constitution of India and therefore Parliament has the powers to ament the PCA 1960 … there appear no legal or constitutional objections to the proposal. Hence we may concur in the proposal," said a law ministry note.
The controversy around the issue stems from a July 2011 order of the MoEFCC which specifies that animals such as bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, lions and bulls “shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals". As a result, jallikattu, a centuries-old practice in Tamil Nadu, was disallowed. The bull taming sport has been criticized by activists, who say the sport amounts to cruelty to animals.
Now, the latest plan of the environment ministry would face stiff resistance from animal rights activists as the apex court has already ruled twice–May 2014 and January 2016-against jallikattu.
In May 2014, when SC banned jallikattu, a bench led by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan had said that, “Bulls cannot be used as a performing animals for jallikattu and bullock-cart race, since they are basically draught and pack animals, not anatomically designed for such performances".
“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 had added.
Following that in January 2016, just ahead of the Tamil Nadu elections, MoEFCC brought an office order allowing jallikattu and bullock cart races in the country .
Expectedly, animal rights activists oppose the decision and may move court against the amendment once it is passed.
“The environment ministry should read the Constitution and understand the fundamental duty of compassion. Culture is no excuse for cruelty. If government passes this bill we would move court against it," said N.G. Jayasimha, a member of the AWBI.
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