Mumbai: In a major setback to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to lift the ban on bullock cart races in the State by observing that the very act of making a bull run amounts to cruelty. It may be recalled that the high court had banned the race in December 2012.
This ruling by the division bench of Chief Justice Manjual Chellur and Justice Nitin Jamdar has left the government red-faced, especially after it had come up with certain amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The government had contended that these amendments were made to ensure that the bulls are not subjected to any cruelty. Having heard all the contentions, Chief Justice Chellur said, “We are of the prima facie view that the very act of making a bull run would amount to cruelty. Bulls can perform agricultural and other related tasks, but how can you (government) make them run races when they are not physically designed for such a task?”
After perusing the amendments, CJ Chellur said, “The proposed rules only speak of ensuring that no pain is inflicted on the bulls but we fail to understand as to how can a law change the anatomy of an animal and make it a performing animal? No matter what safeguards you include to implement the proposed rules, the fact that bulls are different from performing animals such as horses, dogs, or parrots, they will be subjected to cruelty.”
The judges also referred to the observations of the Supreme Court which had banned the Jallikattu festival in Tamil Nadu. CJ Chellur said, “Prima facie we are of the opinion that these amendments would not take away or remove the observations and the apprehensions of the apex court. Therefore, we direct the government to ensure that no permissions are granted to conduct such races in the State.”
This significant ruling had come in response to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Pune-based activist Ajay Marathe, who had challenged the government’s permission to conduct such races in Pune. The judges had in August passed an interim order, staying the permission and sought to know from the government if it had any mechanism in place to oversee the safety of bulls.