Chennai: A petition against jallikattu, the traditional bull-fighting sport, will be heard by the Supreme Court today.
Last week, the Centre had lifted the ban on Jallikattu that had been imposed by the top court ruling in May 2014.
Citing cruelty to the animals, the Animal Welfare Board, People for Ethical Treatment of Aminals, or PETA, and 11 other organisations have challenged the Centre's notification. The Tamil Nadu government has filed a caveat requiring it to be heard before any orders.
Critics say the motive to lift the ban is political - the traditional sport is highly popular in parts of Tamil Nadu and is conducted during the four-day Pongal festival, held in mid-January. Although it is not a key poll issue, all parties want to be seen championing the cause ahead of the elections, they say.
Animal rights organisations say there is clear video evidence of how the animals are assaulted, intoxicated and subjected to other forms of cruelty. Lime juice is squeezed into their eyes and chilli powder is rubbed on their genitals to make them ferocious.
There's voluminous evidence that this sport is nothing but cruelty and the court banned because of that," said Dr Chinny Krishna, Vice Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India.
The Centre has said the traditional sport should be continued, albeit with some restrictions that stop cruelty to the animals.
The festival was not held last year - it was banned by the erstwhile UPA government when the DMK was part of the alliance. This time, the DMK had demanded that the ban on the festival be lifted.
After the Centre's last week's announcement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"The AIADMK will take credit for everything. It had taken credit even for the floods," scoffed DMK spokesperson TKS Ilangovan. "The fact is that the ruling party had failed to follow the rules prescribed by the Supreme Court and only because of that, jallikattu was banned".
"The collective responsibility for the jallikattu ban is with the DMK and Congress. Whatever revival has happened at this point is due to Amma's efforts," said Ma Foi Pandiarajan, an AIADMK lawmaker from Virudhunagar.