Bombay HC bans bullock cart races till Maharashtra frames rules

Mumbai, Aug 16 (IANS) In a blow to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday restrained the state from granting permission to hold bullock cart races till the authorities frame rules governing the activity.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice (Mrs) Manjula Chellur and Justice N.M. Jamdar, said that since the state government had not framed rules to govern the races in line with the amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it could not grant permission for such races.

Government Pleader Abhinandan Vagyani informed the judges that the draft rules were prepared and had already been uploaded on the government’s website, inviting public objections and suggestions to the same.

The high court order came during the hearing of a PIL filed by Pune activist Ajay Marathe informing the court about a bullock cart race being organised there on Thursday and seeking an injunction on it.

He contended that the bullocks were “naturally” not meant for racing activity like horses, and forcing them to take part in races amounted to inflicting severe punishment on them.

During the budget session of the Maharashtra legislature, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance had introduced a bill to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act to regularise the bullock cart races in the state, which was subsequently passed.

However, it stipulated that the organisers of the “Bailgada Sharyat”, “Chhakadi” and “Shankarpal” — local names for bullock cart races — would need prior approval of the respective District Collectors.

A popular form of sport in mofussil Maharashtra, particularly in western and northern parts of the state, bullock cart races were banned in 2014, but the state revived the proposal after Tamil Nadu enacted a law regularising its rural sport “Jalikattu” or taming the bull.

Reacting to the court orders on Wednesday, Shiv Sena MP from Shirur Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil said that the state would consider the option of appealing in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court directed the state to file its affidavit to the PIL and posted the matter for further hearing after a fortnight.

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