Citation(2014)7 SCC 547
Date of Judgment7th May 2014
CourtSupreme Court of India
Case TypeCivil Appeal No.5387 of 2014
AppellantAnimal welfare board of India  
RespondentA.Nagaraja & Ors. 
BenchK.S Radhakrishnan, Pinaki Chandra Ghosh
ReferredArticle 21,51(g), 136, Section 3 and 11(a)&(m) of PCA act


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. 


  • It was held that AWBI is right that Jallikattu violates Section 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and upheld the decision by the Central Govt. dated 11.07.2011 banning bullock cart races for Jallikattu and any other events.
  • The court also held that the rights which are granted to bulls cannot be curtailed which are given in Section 3 and 11 of PCA Act read with Article 51(g) of the Indian Constitution except under Section 11(3).
  •  The five freedoms which are given in Section 3 and Section 11 of PCA Act are to be safeguarded or protected by the government (states, Central govt. and UT’s).
  • AWBI was directed to ensure that the provisions of Section 11(1)(m)(ii) are followed which means that there should be a person-in-charge to ensure well being of animals and should take care that animals shall not incite any animal to fight against a human being or another animal.
  • If the directions issued by the Court are not complied with, the govt. can take disciplinary actions against the officials so that the purpose and objectives are achieved of the PCA Act. 


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.


In conclusion, the case surrounding Jallikattu presents a complex clash between cultural tradition and animal rights. While it’s undeniable that Jallikattu holds significant cultural and historical importance for Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, it cannot be justified at the expense of animal welfare and the principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the ban on bull-taming sports raises serious concerns about the protection of animal rights, as evidenced by the documented cruelty inflicted upon bulls during these events.

Despite arguments presented by the respondents emphasizing safety measures and the cultural significance of Jallikattu, the undeniable evidence of cruelty and harm inflicted upon animals cannot be overlooked. The duty to prevent unnecessary suffering or pain, as outlined in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, must be upheld, regardless of cultural or religious significance.

Furthermore, the contention that Jallikattu is essential to Tamil Nadu’s culture and economy does not justify the perpetuation of cruelty towards animals. The loss of human lives and the suffering endured by bulls in the pursuit of entertainment and revenue cannot be justified under the guise of tradition.

In light of these considerations, it is imperative that the rights and welfare of animals be given due consideration alongside cultural traditions. Upholding the ban on Jallikattu and similar bull-taming sports is necessary to ensure the protection of animal rights and prevent further instances of cruelty and harm.

Authored By,

Sri Varsan,

Saveetha School Of Law,

Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences,