Till the Supreme Court stayed the Centre’s ‘Pongal gift’ to Tamil Nadu, there were some anxious moments at the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which challenged the Ministry’s decision to allow jallikattu.
Vice-chairman Chinny Krishna said pressure was brought to bear upon the Board by the Ministry when it decided to move against the January 7 notification.
But he refused to say whether the Ministry wanted Board members to step down, though it is learnt a call was made by the senior-most official of the Ministry to the Board chairman, Major General (Retd.) R.M. Kharb.
“We are on the Board for the love of life, which includes dignity to animals, and we don’t get paid by the Ministry for our work. We had hoped the Ministry would be law-abiding, yet it went ahead with the notification,” Mr. Krishna said.
Lawyers for the Animal Welfare Board of India, Aryama Sundaram and K.K. Venugopal, had fought for the cause of protecting the bulls pro bono.
“I would like to know how many lawyers representing the culture and tradition of Tamil Nadu gave up their sitting fee to fight the case,” vice-chairman of the Board, Chinny Krishna asked.
The Board members are appointed for three years and it has provision for six MPs from the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Mr. Krishna said any move to terminate their service would be contested if it was mala fide.
On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a batch of petitions moved by the Board seeking to quash the January 7 notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests allowing jallikattu.
Mr. Krishna pointed out that the notification violated several provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Cruelty is inherent in jallikattu, he asserted.
“I am from Tamil Nadu, but my culture does not include cruelty to animals. As a statutory body, it was our responsibility to show that the Centre was wrong,” he said.