The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to lift its ban imposed on bullock cart races in Maharashtra, PTI reported. The order comes ahead of Diwali festivities when bullock cart races are organised in huge numbers across the state.

The government said that it had amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2017, to ensure that the animals participating in the races are not physically hurt. The Bombay High Court rejected this submission, saying it was not possible to safeguard bulls from being subjected to cruelty if they are used as performing animals.

The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Pune-based activist Ajay Marathe challenging the Act that permits such races.

“Can a law change the anatomy of an animal and make it a performing animal?” the bench asked. “No matter what safeguards you implement, the fact that bulls are different from performing animals – such as horses, dogs or parrots – they will be subjected to cruelty if used as performing animals.”

Aspi Chinoy, the state’s counsel, told the bench that the amendments had not yet been notified as a result of the stay order that the Bombay High Court had passed on August 16. During the Budget session in April, the Maharashtra Assembly had passed a Bill legalising bullock cart races in the state.

The High Court rejected the state’s plea saying it was not convinced that the amendments will prevent bulls from cruelty. “Bulls can perform agricultural and related tasks, but how can you make them run races when they aren’t physically designed for such a task?” the bench asked, according to PTI.

The High Court allowed the state to approach the Supreme Court for relief.