The buffalo racing sport, Kambala, will continue in Karnataka for now, as the Supreme Court on Monday refused to stop it saying it will hear the matter in March.
Kambala starts from December and continues till March. It coincides with the Pongal festivities.
As senior counsel Siddharth Luthra urged the court that it should step in and stop the race, which is now scheduled for February 18, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said "races will take place next year also".
Urging the court to stop Kambala, Luthra appearing for the NGO People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told the bench that an ordinance backing Kambala has lapsed and there was no statutory regime supporting the animal sport.
Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand also informed the bench comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y.Chandrachud, that the Karnataka Law bestowing sanctity to Kambala was pending before the President for his assent.
Kambala is a traditional slush-track buffalo race held mainly in the Dakshina Kannada district between November and March. In these races, a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough run in parallel slush tracks, with a farmer controlling them while balancing on the plough.
For some years now, the sport has courted criticism from animal rights activists including PETA, which started a movement to ban the sport. In 2014, the sport was outlawed based on the Supreme Court judgement that made Jallikattu, a bull taming sport in neighboring Tamil Nadu, illegal.
Kambala organisers sought to keep this sport out of the ban by differentiating bull taming from buffalo racing. And kambala races continued to occur sparingly as there was no clear-cut law banning Kambala, before the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) took up the issue at the Karnataka High Court.
In July 2017, the President of India approved an ordinance passed by the state government and Kambala was legalised once again with a few changes in the rules.
However, PETA flagged the sport once again in November when races resumed in Dakshina Kannada district. The Supreme Court has now directed the final hearing on PETA's plea to March 12 2018.
With inputs from IANS