In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Ajay Marathe in which PETA filed an intervention application, a High Court of Bombay bench including Chief Justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice NM Jamdar passed an order stating that it is bound by the observations and views of the 2014 Supreme Court judgment that banned bullock cart races across the country. Although the senior counsel appearing for the state submitted that the state government has laid out rules detailing how bullock cart races may be conducted, the High Court pointed out that the Supreme Court has categorically stated that bulls are not anatomically suited to racing. The 2014 Supreme Court judgment also noted that bullock cart races are inherently cruel – causing the animals excruciating fear, pain, and suffering – and hence cannot be purported to promote tradition or culture, the stated intent of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2017, and the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules, 2017. The High Court also clarified that no bullock cart races are permitted in Maharashtra, even if the state government notifies the new rules. The matter is likely to come up again after Diwali.
On 19 July, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2017, received the President’s approval, and on 31 July, it was published in the Maharashtra Government Gazette. However, in the PIL filed by Marathe on 16 August, the High Court of Bombay stayed the operation of the Act while directing the state to provide the mechanism or procedure under which bullock cart races could be conducted without causing the animals any pain or suffering, as observed by the Supreme Court. On 19 September, the state filed an affidavit explaining its reasons for allowing bullock cart races and placed the Maharashtra Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Bullock Cart Race) Rules, 2017, before the court. PETA filed a petition in the Supreme Court last month seeking direction from the court to strike down the state laws that legalise bullock cart races.
Through its landmark judgment of 2014, the Supreme Court of India made clear that spectacles that harm bulls, such as bullock cart races, violate The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, and the provisions of the Constitution of India. Following investigations in 2013 of bullock cart races under Supreme Court–imposed regulations in Maharashtra, PETA released a detailed report and video footage documenting the systemic abuse of bullocks in an apparent direct violation of the PCA Act. The report stated that participants deprived bullocks of food, water, and shade; forcibly yanked them by nose ropes, causing their noses to bleed; and physically abused them in order to force them to run – even when exhausted – by biting and twisting their tails, striking them, and rubbing irritants into their mouths.
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