Jallikattu Debate

Supreme Court allows bullock cart races in Maharashtra


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The Supreme Court has allowed Maharashtra to hold bullock cart races in the state till the pendency of the matter before the Constitutional Bench of the apex court.

Allowing bullock-cart races

  • The SC observed that the validity of the amended provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the rules framed by Maharashtra provided for bullock cart race in the State.
  • Such races would operate during the pendency of the petitions as the entire matter has been referred to a constitution Bench.
  • The state govt has cited examples as the same is being conducted in the states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Why was there a ban on the bullock cart races?

Ans. Ban on Jallikattu, then

  • Bullock cart races were banned in Maharashtra after the Supreme Court declared that the race as violative of the provisions of the central act in 2014.
  • It then had observed that bulls were not anatomically designed to participate in races/taming and would be subjected to cruelty if used as a performing animal.

How did Maharashtra respond?

Ans. Bringing in a law to prevent pain or sufferings to the animals

  • In April 2017, the Maharashtra assembly had passed legislation for resumption of bullock cart races across the state.
  • The Bill titled ‘The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill’ was passed unanimously with the support of all parties.
  • As per the amendment, bullock cart races could be held with the prior permission of the district collector concerned by ensuring that no pain or suffering would be caused to the animal.

Why did the Maharashtra government go to SC?

Ans. Blanket ban by Bombay HC

  • Even after this law, the Bombay High Court refused to vacate stay on the bullock cart races.
  • Hence it got to approach the SC.

Proving the running ability of a bull

  • In November 2017, the Maharashtra government set up a committee to study the running capacity of various breeds of bulls and bullocks in comparison to horses.
  • The committee was asked to study physiological and biochemical changes during the running of the bulls, bullocks and horses.
  • A report titled ‘Running ability of bull’ was prepared in two months by the government to justify allowing the bullock cart races.
  • Subsequently, the Maharashtra government challenged the Bombay HC’s order.

Back2Basics: Jallikattu Debate

  • It is a bull-taming sport and a disputed traditional event in which a bull such is released into a crowd of people.
  • Multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape.
  • Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns.
  • It is typically practised in the state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal (harvest) celebrations in January.

Issue with the sport

An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India concluded that “Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals”.

  • Human deaths: The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
  • Manhandling of animals: Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.
  • Cruelty to animal: Practices, before the bull is released, include prodding the bull with sharp sticks or scythes, extreme bending of the tail which can fracture the vertebrae, and biting of the bull’s tail.
  • Animal intoxication:  There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chilli peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.

Arguments in favour

  • Native breed conservation: According to its protagonists, it is not a leisure sport available but a way to promote and preserve the native livestock.
  • Cultural significance: Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BCE) and finds mention in Sangam texts.
  • Man-animal relationship: Some believe that the sport also symbolizes a cordial man-animal relationship.


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