The Bombay High Court today refused to vacate its stay restraining the Maharashtra government from granting permission for bullock cart races, observing bulls were not anatomically designed to participate in races and would be subjected to cruelty if used as a performing animal.
Drawing from the Supreme Court's 2014 order on Jallikattu, a bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice NM Jamdar said since bulls were not anatomically designed to be used as performing animals, making them participate in a race will "inherently" amount to "cruelty."
The bench dismissed the state's submission that it had amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act 2017 to ensure that bulls participating in such races are not subjected to any physical pain or cruelty.
"Can a law change the anatomy of an animal and make it a performing animal? No matter what safeguards you implement, the fact that bulls are different from performing animals such as horses, dogs, or parrots, they will be subjected to cruelty if used as performing animals," the bench said.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Pune-based activist Ajay Marathe, challenging the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, that permitted such races.
Following the petition, the high court had passed an interim order on August 16 this year restraining the Maharashtra government from giving permission for bullock cart races anywhere in the state.
The state had then told the court that it will soon amend the above act to include rules ensuring no animals are subject to cruelty vis-a-vis the apprehensions expressed by the apex court in its 2014 order on Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming event held in Tamil Nadu.
The apex court had in its order held that taming bulls and using them as performing animals amounted to cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Today, the state's counsel, Aspi Chinoy, told the court that Maharashtra had amended the Act to include provisions, such as lifetime disqualification for owners or persons in-charge who subject the participant bulls to physical pain, prohibition on use of whips, supervision, videography of races and mandatory frequent breaks for animals during the race.
Chinoy said the new rules were yet to be notified. The counsel urged the court to vacate its stay order of August 16, and thus, grant it permission to allow races after notifying the new rules.
The bench, however, reiterated that the amended legislation didn't address the apex court's apprehensions on the inherent cruelty inflicted upon the bulls considering that they weren't meant to be used as performing animals.
"Bulls can perform agricultural and related tasks, but how can you make them run races when they aren't physically designed for such a task?" the bench asked.
"Prima facie, the amended rules are not in consonance with the apex court's observations in the 2014 order," the bench said.
While disposing of the petition, it suggested that the state approach the apex court for relief.
"If the SC thinks your amended rules will prevent cruelty to bulls, let it allow your prayers," the bench said.