SC's stern message to cow vigilantes: Cannot escape law

New Delhi, Sep 22: The Supreme Court on Friday came own heavily on cow vigilantes and said that all states are under an obligation to compensate victims of Cow vigilantism violence cases. It further asked for a compliance report from states. Next hearing on October 31st.

Talking tough, the Supreme Court had earlier asked all states to take stern steps to stop violence in the name of cow protection by appointing a senior police officer as nodal officer in every district within a week and act promptly to check cow vigilantes from behaving like they are "law unto themselves". Such acts "must stop", directed a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra which asked the states to form a dedicated task force in every district to stop such acts and directed their chief secretaries to file a status report giving details of actions taken to prevent incidents of cow vigilantism. "The senior police officer shall take prompt action and ensure (that) vigilante groups and such people are prosecuted with quite promptitude," the bench, also comprising Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, said while issuing notice to the Centre and others on the PIL filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. "The people should not take law into their hands and they should not behave as if they were law unto themselves. This must stop. Such acts are not permissible," the bench said in a stern message. The bench asked the Centre to respond to the submission that it could issue directions under Article 256 (obligation of states and Union) of the Constitution to all state governments on issues related to law and order. "Steps have to be taken to stop this. Some kind of planned action is required so that vigilantism does not grow. Efforts have to be made to stop such vigilantism," the bench said, adding "how will they (states) do it, is their business but this must stop." The court also asked state governments to ensure highway patrolling after it was pointed out that such incidents took place on highways on the pretext that vehicles are carrying beef. At the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Tushar Gandhi, referred to several incidents of mob lynching and assaults in the name of cow vigilantism. She said such incidents were "no longer a law and order issue" and have become a nationwide phenomenon which need preventive action. "We do not want to come to the court after people are dead. Rather, we want people to be saved," she said and referred to the statement of Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar that the central government did not approve of such incidents of people taking law into their hands. Jaising raised the issue of cooperative federalism and said that such incidents were violative of the concept. The bench agreed with the contention and said, "efforts should be made to stop this vigilantism". Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat, said there was a law and the states should take action in such offences. The ASG said that even the Centre has categorically said that it did not support any such activity and sought time to peruse the pleas and file a response. When another senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves, appearing for another petitioner, raised the issue of alleged provocative statements made by leaders of the ruling party, the ASG vehemently objected and said the governments were before the court and not the political party. "I do take strong objection to all this. This (PIL) is a cheap publicity gimmick and politically motivated," the ASG said. The court posted the matter for further hearing on September 22 and asked the states and others to file responses in the meantime. The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by Gandhi seeking various reliefs, including a direction to all the governments to take preventive measures against cow vigilantism. Besides Gandhi, Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla had earlier filed a similar petition.

News24Bureau with Agencies