SC allows resumption of bullock cart race in Maharashtra

Bullock cart racing in Maharashtra has been prohibited in the State since 2017.

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the resumption of bullock cart race in Maharashtra, which has been prohibited in the State since 2017.

The apex court observed that validity of the amended provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the rules framed by Maharashtra, which provided for bullock cart race in the State, would operate during the pendency of the petitions as the entire matter has been referred to a constitution bench.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar noted that no interim relief was granted earlier by the top court on the petitions challenging the validity of similar State amendment of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where such races are going on.

“Same dispensation must apply to the amended provisions as applicable to the state of Maharashtra, which are similar to the amendment carried out in the other two states,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar.

The apex court was hearing an application filed by the Maharashtra government which had sought that ban on bullock cart race in the State should be lifted as the same is going on in states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The Maharashtra government had said that there is a prohibition on bullock cart race in the State as the Bombay High Court, in its interim order, had refused to lift the ban in 2017, while there is no stay on the Acts concerned of the other two States.

In its order, the bench observed that the pleas challenging the validity of the state amendment of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in this regard were fully heard by the apex court earlier and the issue was later referred to a constitution bench, but no interim relief was granted by the court.

“The validity of the amended provision of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the rules framed thereunder by the state of Maharashtra would operate during the pendency of the writ petition, as the entire matter has been referred to the constitution bench, including to consider the question as to whether the similar amended Act of the state of Tamil Nadu overcomes the defects pointed out in the two judgements of this court,” the bench said.

The top court said that this matter be heard along with the petitions pertaining to the States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

It said that prayer for interim reliefs in the petition stand answered and need not be renewed before the top court unless there is change in circumstance.

“It will be open to the parties to request the Chief Justice for listing of the main matters referred to the constitution bench,” it said.

During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, told the bench that in 2017 Maharashtra had come with amendments to permit bullock cart race.

He said the rules were challenged in the high court which had stayed the operation of the rules by which the State wanted to hold bullock cart race under strict regulations.

Mr. Rohatgi said similar amendments were done in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and when the matter came to the apex court, no bar was put on such race in those two states.

He said Maharashtra should be allowed to conduct bullock cart races in accordance with the 2017 rules.

While arguing the matter on Wednesday, Mr. Rohatgi had referred to an earlier order of the apex court, which had referred the pleas related to ‘Jallikattu’ to a five-judge constitution bench which would decide if the bull-taming sport fell under cultural rights or perpetuated cruelty to animals.

Jallikattu, also known as ‘eruthazhuvuthal’, is a bull-taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal harvest festival. One of the advocates appearing in the matter had earlier told the apex court that bullock cart race was banned in Maharashtra on the grounds of cruelty to the animal.

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