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Environmental Ethics

Animal Welfare Board Of India vs A. Nagaraja & Ors, (2014) 7 SCC 547


Animal Welfare Board Of India v. A. Nagaraja & Ors, (2014) 7 SCC 547


  • Whether bullock-cart races and Jallikattu taking place in the states of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are violative of the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (hereinafter PCA Act)
  • Whether the Animal welfare board has the authority to exclude and include any animal in the list?
  • Did the practice of Jallikattu and Bollock-cart races violate the international principles on violation of rights of animals?


  • Section 3 has two limbs, namely:
    a. Duty cast on persons-in-charge or care to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of the animal
    b. Duty to take reasonable measures to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain and suffering.
  • To interpret the phrase “unnecessary suffering”, one must look at whether the suffering could have been reasonable avoided or reduced, whether the conduct causing suffering was in compliance with the Act and whether the conduct causing suffering was for a legitimate purpose.


  • The case began when the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory board established under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, highlighted through its reports and photographs before the court the conditions of barbarity with which the bulls were being used during the Jallikattu and bullock-cart race events.
  • The information provided by the AWBI highlighted that bulls were being physically and mentally tortured for human pleasure and enjoyment, being subjected to ear cutting, mutilation, fracture, death, twisting of the tail, poking with sharp objects, lack of food and water.
  • The appeal was made in 2006 to ban jallikattu when a petition was filed before the Madras High Court when the court permitted it to do so. The Animal Welfare Board soon barred bulls as a performance animal.
  • On 11.07.2011, the MoEF through its notification removed “bulls” from the list of performing animals thus prohibiting their exhibition and training and in effect banning Jallikattu and Bullock Cart Races in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively. This notification was challenged in Court and a bunch of writ petitions were also filed in the respective High Courts of these States. The decision of these High Courts with all the writ petitions were clubbed together and decided in this case.


  • The Apex court held that animals of any kind must not be used in any kind of entertainment. In this particular case the court banned the use of bullocks and bulls in “entertainment activities” such as jallikattu.
  • The court held that bulls must not be used in any type of practices and performance which includes races and bullfights.
  • The court was of the opinion that the duties provided for under the two limbs of Section 3 had not been fulfilled as the bulls, at the time of the events, were subjected to immense torture and cruelty.
  • Section 11 is a beneficial provision enacted for the welfare and protection of the animals and it is penal in nature. Section 11(1)(a) uses the expressions “or otherwise”, “unnecessary pain or suffering” etc. Beating, kicking and all the other torturous practices do come within the ambit of “unnecessary pain or suffering” if the AWBI’s report is considered. Even if it isn’t, the term ”or otherwise”, which shall not serve as a limitation, shall be construed in a broad manner, as the legislature intended, so that it can cover all situations where the animals are subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering.
  • The court also added that the government and animal welfare board must protect the five freedoms of animals as the scope of Article 21 was widened and animals were included as well; freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from fear and distress, freedom to express normal behaviour, freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  • The court also held that the notification by the Animal welfare board is correct hence animals such as bulls will not be a performing animal from now onwards.