New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday referred a batch of petitions challenging the law passed by the Tamil Nadu legislature allowing the practice of the bull-taming sport, Jallikattu, to a Constitution bench.

A bench comprising justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Navin Sinha have framed five questions that will be considered by the Constitution bench to decide the issue.

The court had earlier observed that the matter was of great importance and was likely to be referred to a Constitution bench.

Among several issues that needed to be considered was whether the practice of Jallikattu could be claimed as a cultural right under the Constitution. Another was whether the state of Tamil Nadu had the competence to legislate on the matter, the court observed.

“It will have to be determined whether the Constitution recognises such a cultural right, as claimed by the state. Also to be settled is whether a section of people can invoke Article 29 (1) (protection of interest of minorities) under the Constitution to keep alive the practice," the court had said.

The Centre’s notification allowing the sport was passed on 6 January 2016. Following mass protests, it was replaced by the state legislature passing the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment), Act, 2017, which legalizes Jallikattu. The Centre, thereafter, withdrew its 2016 notification allowing the controversial sport.

The court was hearing a bunch of cases including a plea filed by the central government to withdraw the 6 January 2016 notification allowing Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.

Petitions challenging the Centre’s notification and the state’s amendment included those by the Animal Welfare Board, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India (PETA), Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) and animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi.

The apex court has ruled twice—in 2014 and 2016—that Jallikattu amounts to cruelty to animals and is constitutionally impermissible.

The amendment passed by the Tamil Nadu legislature lays down a new definition for Jallikattu and allows the sport on the basis of culture and the need for preserving the native breed of bulls.

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