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1 Feb 2017

Centre's halal goat parallel in bull case - How two law officers did their job

Mukul Rohatgi
R. Balaji, TT, New Delhi, Jan. 31: The Centre today defended jallikattu by telling the Supreme Court that "goats are sacrificed throughout the country during a festival" and "it is done for halal and all such things".

Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Centre in the court, put forth the argument after suddenly rising to defend the Tamil Nadu government when the judges asked a flurry of questions to the state's lawyers defending a peace-buying bill that legalised the bull-taming sport.
"Goats are sacrificed throughout the country during a festival. It is done for halal and all such things. This is done because the law - the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) - permits it to do so. But, a holistic approach is required to be taken," Rohatgi told a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman.
The attorney-general was in the court seeking permission to withdraw a central notification that allowed jallikattu and which had become redundant after Tamil Nadu passed the law. The bench allowed the Centre to withdraw the notification.
Justice Nariman pointed out that under Section 11(3) of the PCA, animals can be killed for food but no cruelty can be inflicted.
Rohatgi did not name the festival but goats are slaughtered on Bakri Id in the manner in which it is permissible ( halal) in Islam.
Law officers representing governments usually take care to avoid making statements that can be interpreted as divisive or loaded against rituals and customs clearly identified with specific religions.
Sally Q. Yates
Later, in response to a question from The Telegraph, Rohatgi said he had no intention to target any religion but used the expression only to drive home the point that the sacrifice of animals is permitted in various religions.
"I only gave an example. Sacrifices of animals are done by Hindus and other religions. I am not talking anything about Muslims or Hindus. These are examples which are protected by Section 28 of the act. No matter whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, no matter who you are. Firstly, I said religious sacrifices," Rohatgi said.
The attorney-general said Articles 29 and 48 of the Constitution enable citizens to preserve their cultural identities.
"Therefore, if a law is made to preserve culture, there is nothing wrong in it. Everybody is concentrating only on jallikattu. The focus should be on the law to preserve culture of a particular section of society and preservation of these breeds.
"Therefore, this law is valid. It is within the competence of the state legislature, with the assent of the President, and this law is not in conflict with the judgment of the Supreme Court. The court has refused to grant a stay," Rohatgi said.
The bench issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government and posted the matter for hearing after six weeks.
Sally Q. Yates (above), the US acting attorney-general, was fired by President Donald Trump on Monday for refusing to defend his immigration ban. The sacking of Yates recalled the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney-general and deputy attorney-general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case. But a key difference is Yates, a career prosecutor, is a holdover from the previous Obama administration. Her defiance threw conflicting responses. Former attorney-general Eric H. Holder Jr., a Democrat, posted a photograph of Yates on Twitter and said: “This is what skill, judgment and courage look like.” But George J. Terwilliger III, a Republican who had served as acting attorney-general, said: “In a legal dispute in our adversary system concerning an executive order, the attorney-general’s and the Justice Department’s responsibility is to be an advocate for the President’s position. Yates’s actions make her and the Justice Department look blatantly political.” (NYTNS report, Reuters picture)

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