Compassion Unlimited Plus Action vs Union of India

By Janvi Shukla[1]

In the Supreme Court of India

Name of the caseCompassion Unlimited Plus Action vs Union of India
CitationWrit Petition (Civil) No. 24 of 2016
Date of judgement12th January 2016
AppellantCompassion Unlimited Plus Action
RespondentUnion of India
Bench/JudgeJustice N.V. Ramana, Justice Dipak Mishra
Statutes/Constitution involvedThe Constitution of India, 1949; The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
Important Sections/ArticlesThe Constitution of India, 1949– Article 25, Article 51A(g) The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960– Ss. 3, 11,


In the present case the petitioners filed a writ petition against the continuation of the unlawful Jallikattu tradition, where bulls are used as performance animals. The court approved the intervention application by the respondent. The Supreme court held that the liberties for animals are comparable to the fundamental rights that are accorded to all people of the nation. The court has broadened the definition of “life” under Article 21[2] to include the right to life of animals with some restrictions.


A Writ Petition is an order from a higher court telling a lower court or courts what to do or how to cease doing it. A written order given in the court’s name is known as a writ. A person can file a writ petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution[3] alleging that their basic rights have been violated.

The petitioners filed the writ petitions under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution asking the Supreme Court to quash the notification dated January 7, 2016. The petitioners’ primary contention throughout has been that the Jallikattu sport.

In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a bull is let loose into a throng of spectators who then try to grasp onto the bull’s hump while it tries to flee. This traditional sport is known as jallikattu. Along with worries over animal care, the ritual has witnessed several human fatalities throughout the years. Before the bulls are let loose, they are poked with pointy spears or scythes, their tails are stretched to the limit to fracture the vertebrae, and they are even bit. There are rumours that the bulls are made to consume beer or that hot peppers are rubbed into their eyes to cause agitation and confusion. The bulls are punched, kicked, pounced on, and dragged to the ground throughout the event.

They are also attacked with knives and sticks. If the bulls are not contained, they can rush into moving vehicles and suffer fatal injuries or broken bones. Due to worries about animal cruelty and public safety, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of India in 2010 to have Jallikattu banned. The use of bulls as performance animals was prohibited by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in a notification that outlawed Jallikattu in 2011. However, the Tamil Nadu Regulation of the Jallikattu Act allowed for certain restrictions on the continuation of the practice (2007).

Facts of the case

The petitioners have filed the writ petitions under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, asking for an appropriate writ, order, or direction to quash Notification No.G.S.R.13(E) dated January 7, 2016, which was published by the respondent, the Union of India, and to direct the respondent to enforce the legislation established in Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja and Others[4] as well as to issue any additional orders that may be considered appropriate. There is a plea for the contested notification to be suspended.

The government purposefully excluded “Jallikattu Bulls” from the list of animals prohibited from being displayed or trained as performers without even removing the word “Bulls,” and it merely modified the previous order issued by the Ministry of Forest and Environment on July 11, 2011, which was the main reason for the petition for a stay on the notification.

However, the court issued a stay order on the abovementioned application during the first hearing of the case. And afterward, the court approved an intervention application submitted by the respondent in which the applicant requested a stay of the ruling dated 12.01.2016 made in the writ petition.

Issue Raised

  • Whether the rights of the animals are protected from unlawful attacks?
  • Whether the activities taking place in the States of Tamil Nadu are in breach of Articles 51A(g) and (h), Sections 3, 11(1)(a) & (m), and Sections 21 & 22 of the PCA Act?

Argument from the Appellant side

  • learned senior counsel representing the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations argued that animal abuse is unacceptable in the modern world. Senior counsel with extensive knowledge has harshly denounced such a sport on the grounds that it should be illegal. He contends that there are differences between sports using objects and those involving live things, and the Court should take notice of this.
  • The learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner said that the mentioned Notification does not actually nullify the judgement of this Court and violates the PCA Act’s requirements. They argue that even if the Central Government recently established requirements through a notification, treating bulls in this way would not be justified considering the compassion embodied in the PCA Act and the basic obligations imposed by Article 51-A of the Indian Constitution. Knowing that the usage of bulls in this way cannot be a celebration for the human species, especially in the twenty-first century, the Notification was made.
  • They argued that, notwithstanding the new stipulations introduced by the Central Government in a Notification, treating bulls in this way would not be justified considering the PCA Act’s embedded compassion and the basic obligations imposed by Article 51-A of the Indian Constitution.

Argument from the Respondent side

  • According to the learned counsel for the defendant, the Animal Welfare Board and other petitioners’ basic rights were not in any manner harmed, hence the writ petition could not be maintained under Article 32 of the Constitution.
  • While the defendants had also argued that the A. Nagaraja case’s proper essence had not been understood and that in that case, the court had not completely forbidden the participation of bulls in Jallikattu but had instead wished for the proper precautions to be taken to prevent the treatment of bulls with cruelty.
  • The defendant also argued that Jallikattu is not a battle between people and bulls but rather a game in which players must leap upon their humps to hug the running bull. The young person has no weapons, and the bulls are taught not to let them ride on their backs.
  • Jallikattu is also a celebration with significant socio-religious importance in Tamil Nadu, with a focus on the faith of the pastoral populations of the region.
  • Additionally, the defendant has argued that since Jallikattu has been popular in Tamil Nadu for generations, banning it will have a negative impact on the local culture.

Related Provision

The Constitution of India, 1949

  • Article 25

“Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”[5]

  • Article 51A(g)

“Article 51-A (g) which deals with Fundamental Duties of the citizens states: “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”[6]

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

  • Section 3

“It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.”[7]

  • Section 11

According to Section 11(1)(a)-(o), there are several situations that constitute as animal cruelty.[8]

  • Section 22

“No person shall exhibit or train―

  1. any performing animal unless he is registered in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter.
  2. as a performing animal, any animal which the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify as an animal which shall not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal.”[9]


The Supreme Court held that “AWBI is right in its stand that Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race and such events per se violate Sections 311(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or Bullock-cart Races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.”

The Supreme Court also held that “We are, therefore, of the view that Sections 21, 22 of the PCA Act and the relevant provisions have to be understood in the light of the rights conferred on animals under Section 3, read with Sections 11(1)(a) & (o) and Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Constitution, and if so read, in our view, Bulls cannot be used as a Performing Animals for Jallikattu and Bullock-cart Race, since they are basically draught and pack animals, not anatomically designed for such performances.”

After considering several factors, the Supreme Court concluded that specific directions should be issued. The Supreme Court ruled that the Bulls’ rights, which are protected by PCA Act Sections 3 and 11 read with Articles 51A(g) and (h), cannot be restricted or removed except in accordance with PCA Act Sections 11(3) and 28. The Supreme Court ruled that the States, Central Government, Union Territories  MoEF, and AWBI must defend and uphold the five freedoms mentioned earlier, which are read into Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act. The AWBI and Governments are instructed to take the necessary actions to guarantee that the individuals in charge of the care of the animals take adequate precautions to safeguardtheir welfare.

Since animals’ rights are statutorily guaranteed under Sections 3 and 11 of the PCA Act, the AWBI and Governments are now instructed to take action to avoid the imposition of undue pain or suffering on animals. Additionally, AWBI is instructed to see to it that the requirements of Section 11(1)(m)(ii) are strictly adhered to. This means that the person in charge of the animal’s care must not provoke any animals to attack either humans or other animals. AWBI and the Governments would also make sure that, even when Section 11(3) is at play, the animals are not subjected to needless suffering and that appropriate and scientific procedures are used to achieve the same.

In accordance with Section 9(k), the AWBI and the Governments should take action to spread knowledge on how to treat animals humanely while instilling the spirit of Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Constitution. To properly update the PCA Act and create an effective deterrent for achieving the Act’s goal and purpose, as well as to ensure that Section 11 is violated with appropriate fines and sanctions, Parliament is anticipated to do so. To uphold the dignity and honour of animals, it is anticipated that Parliament will elevate animal rights to the level of constitutional rights, as many other nations have done.

The Governments will see to it that disciplinary action be taken against the at-fault officials to fulfil the goals and objectives of the PCA Act if the provisions of the PCA Act, as well as the declarations and instructions made by this Court, are not properly and effectively followed. The PCA Act, a welfare law, is deemed to be incompatible with the TNRJ Act, which is declared to be unconstitutional as a violation of Article 254(1) of the Indian Constitution[10]. AWBI is required to execute the PCA Act’s provisions as soon as possible, in conjunction with SPCA, and to report on a regular basis to the Governments. If any violations are discovered, the Governments are required to take necessary corrective measures, including follow-up actions. [11]


While protecting human rights, Article 21 of the Constitution also protects life. The term “life” has an enlarged definition, and any disruption to the fundamental environment which encompasses all kinds of life, including animal life that is required for human existence is a violation of Article 21’s provisions.   the Supreme Court has managed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable question that the Indian Constitution is an organic and humane constitution and that Jallikattu and other types of bull races are against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The rights guaranteed under PCA Act are only statutory in nature.

[1] Author is a 3rd semester student at Amity Law School, Lucknow.

[2] INDIA CONST. art. 21.

[3] INDIA CONST. art. 32.

[4] Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja and Others, (2014) 7 SCC 547.

[5] INDIA CONST. art. 25.

[6] INDIA CONST. art. 51A(g).

[7] See Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 §3.

[8] See Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 §11.

[9] See Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 §22.

[10] INDIA CONST. art. 254, cl.1.

[11] Indian Kanoon, (last visited Jul. 18, 2022).

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