New Delhi: Tamil Nadu chief minister O. Panneerselvam on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to issue an ordinance permitting Jallikuttu, a banned bull-taming sport in the southern state.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly voiced its dislike for Jallikuttu and passed orders against it.

“Given that the Pongal festival which holds great importance to the people of Tamil Nadu is less than a week away and Jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal festivities, considering the urgency of the issue, the government of India should consider promulgating an ordinance removing the legal impediments enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2017," Panneerselvam wrote.

The chief minister also cited the “groundswell of sentiment and support" for Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu to make his case.

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“May I kindly request you to direct the ministry of environment, forests and climate change to take necessary action to promulgate the requisite ordinance immediately?" he added.

Ancient Tamil texts show Jallikattu is a “2,000-year-old traditional sport" and “bulls are not harmed or physically tortured" during the festival, the chief minister claimed.

However, animal rights activists have repeatedly criticized the sport, stating it amounts to cruelty to animals. They also said they would approach court if such an ordinance is brought by the central government.

“Last week, the Supreme Court’s seven-judge bench has held that ordinances are open to judicial review; if the central government does promulgate an ordinance, it would be a fraud on the Constitution and subversion of democratic legislative processes. We will approach court if government comes with ordinance," said N.G. Jayasimha, a member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which is India’s nodal body for animal welfare.

Supreme Court has already ruled twice—May 2014 and January 2016—against Jallikattu. Due to this, Jallikattu was not conducted in Tamil Nadu in both 2015 and 2016.

In May 2014, an SC bench led by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, while banning Jallikattu, 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".

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“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.

But the discussion was revived last year in January when the environment ministry, just ahead of the Tamil Nadu elections, brought a notification allowing Jallikattu and bullock cart races in the country. It was challenged in the SC, which ruled against allowing it.

At present, the case is still in SC, which has reserved its verdict in the plea challenging the ministry’s 2016 notification.

Meanwhile, Panneerselvam urged PM to get the environment ministry to “de-notify bulls as performing animals". In July 2011, a ministry order had specified that animals such as bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, lions and bulls “shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals".

Now, whether Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would bring the ordinance or not, the environment ministry is already preparing an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 to allow Jallikattu like cultural and traditional practice.

The amendment is, however, yet to be cleared by the Union cabinet.

Apurva Vishwanath also contributed to this story.

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