Animal Welfare Board of India Vs.  A. Nagaraja and others


This case is concerned with an issue of importance with respect to the rights of animals (i,e., bulls) on the one hand while trying to preserve the culture and tradition of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka on the other hand. 

This case majorly deals with the practice of ‘Jallikattu’, a sport conducted for entertainment purpose and as a tradition on the occasion of Pongal in which a fast-moving bull having silver or gold coins tied on its horns, is controlled by the contestants participating who tries to get onto the bull’s hump.

This was in 2006 when an appeal was initiated to ban ‘Jallikattu’ owing to the cruelty on bulls which is against Section -3 and 11 (a) of the Prevention of Cruelty Act, 1960 and also violative of Article-51 A (g), 48 of Indian constitution. In 2011 Central Government moved the bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition were prohibited thereby shutting the door on the practice of Jallikattu

Later on, In February 2018 the Animal Welfare Board of India challenged the legislation passed by the Tamil Nadu government which contains the rules governing the practice of Jallikattu, as a result of which the ban was lifted and the Supreme Court was approached against this decision. 

Recently, in May 2023 A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision and gave a verdict that allowed bull-taming sports including Jallikattu, Kambala and bullock cart- races etc.


  • Whether the animals also have the right to life and live with dignity and whether it  comes within the ambit of article 21 of Indian constitution just like it applies on humans ?
  • Violative of Article 51 A (g) and (h) which place the duty of protecting the environment and developing a scientific temper upon all citizens as it promotes a bull taming sport.
  • Against section -3 and 11 (a) of the prevention of Animals Cruelty Act, 1960 



Petitioners including inspectors authorised by Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA documented that bulls has become so frightened by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to  run and  twist and bite their tails stab and jab them with sickles , Spears,  sticks  which cause them intense pain by yanking their nose ropes. They filed petitions challenging the amendment to the prevention of cruelty on  animals amendment act 2017, passed by the Tamil Nadu  assembly. Also it was argued that animal life is connected to human life and every living being has inherent liberty that should be respected. It is claimed Tamil Nadu law was created to bypass to supreme court’s ban on jallikattu, And this practise has resulted in death  and  injuries to both humans and bulls. Practise of jallikattu can be compared with that of ancient practises such as sati  and  dowry which were also a part of the culture but have been abolished owing to its impact on society and exploitation of women.


Respondent has argued that Jallikattu a centuries old practise is an important religious and cultural event that should not be banned outright. A ban on jallikattu would be seen as hostile to Tamil nadu’s culture and community. The practise is protected under article 29 one of the constitution and there are and enough measures taken for the protection of the contestant as well As for the bulls . Respondent also stated that this sport  is also a source of income for the state. Since the Tamil Nadu government has come up with a Tamil Nadu regulations of jallikattu 2017 which has set some standards with respect to conduct of jallikattu  in the state and  ensuring the safety of the bulls and the participants. Further it was claimed that participating bulls are trained and well nourished for the purpose of this sport and also no cruelty is meted out to the performing bulls as against section 11 (1) (a) of the prevention of cruelty on animals act and  district collector,  police officials are always on duty during the event so as to ensure the safety of the animals and participants. Moreover, they emphasised on the cultural and historical importance of the event. 


Section -3 of Prevention of cruelty on animals  act 1960 , Clearly states that it shall be the duty of the person having the charge  of animal  to prevent such animal from any unnecessary suffering or pain. And section -11 (1) (a) of the same act says If any person kicks ,  overdrives or otherwise treats any animal that causes pain or suffering shall be punishable with fine or imprisonment under this act it is not appropriate to say daughter decision may be right in some aspects but it cannot be said to be justified when it comes to cruelty of animals .The  health and well-being of the  performing bulls and participants should have also taken into account as the bull and the contestants taking part in the events got injured and sometimes even results into the death of the participants.  The court’s action can be said to be flawed when it directed to keep animal’s  right to life and live with dignity  outside the scope of Article 21 of Indian constitution. How can we let the animals suffer the unnecessary pain just for entertainment and revenue purpose? 

Moreover, Since  the passage of the Prevention of cruelty to Animals Tamil Nadu amendment act 2017, 25 people and 6 bulls have died. When the thick rope passes through its nose drills, can’t be imagine the pain it goes through when the rope rubs against its soft nasal system at a speed? 

People with a vested interest in jallikattu have gone so far as to attempt to claim that it is a part of the Tamil tradition. Is it justified to claim such tradition or culture as a result of which several innocent peoples and animals have lost their lives? And this will be continued year after year if necessary, action is not taken. Jallikattu is cruel and lifting the ban would have a negative impact on animal welfare.


The father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi said, The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be Judged  by the way its animals are treated.” So ultimately, I would like to say that the impact of lifting the ban on jallikattu will depend on the specific conditions and regulations imposed for the safety purpose of the animals as well as the ability of the government and executives to ensure the effective enforcement of the animals welfare standards. According to animal behavioural science most animals like bulls and cows also act and respond like humans and feel the same pain, fear and affection like humans this is something which our lawmakers need to keep in mind while formulating the laws and policies with respect to animals.  However while the court’s decision recognises the cultural significance of jallikattu  it also emphasised the importance of preventing cruelty to animals but it could be ensured  only with the strict implementation of rules and regulations which is itself a big challenge. Hence maintaining the balance between the cultural practice and animal  welfare would be the right approach in this case.


Km Prachi

Law centre 1, Faculty of Law, Delh University