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Supreme Court reserves order in petition that seeks mechanism for checking gau rakshaks and fixing responsibility for violence by cow vigilantes

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday (July 3), dubbed as “unacceptable” violence perpetrated by
self-anointed cow vigilante groups and said that it is the obligation of the States to prevent such incidents.

The top court’s observations came as it reserved its order in two petitions that have sought a mechanism to be laid out by the Supreme Court for checking incidents of cow vigilantism and for fixing responsibility of the government and its officials concerned for failing to curb crimes by self-styled cow vigilantes or gau rakshaks.

During course of the hearing in the petitions filed by Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Congress worker Tehseen Poonawalla, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said that mob violence was a law and order issue and each State has to be responsible for preventing it.

Counsels for the petitioners, senior advocates Indira Jaising and Sanjay Hegde, submitted that orders passed by the Supreme Court last September, which had laid out a slew of measures to be adopted by States for preventing violence by gau rakshaks, had not been complied with by various States.

Jaising submitted that States which had not complied with the earlier SC orders or those which had filed affidavits claiming that they had implemented the SC directives but still failed to control incidents of cow vigilantism must be held in contempt. She pointed out that “incidents of mob lynching by cow vigilantes have been witnessed 60 kms outside the national capital of Delhi” in recent months and that a majority of such incidents were taking place just off the national highways.

Recalling the Supreme Court’s orders issued in September while hearing her client’s (Tushar Gandhi) petition which required setting up of patrolling units on national highways to check cow vigilantism, Jaising said the role of the central government in the case is to ensure that legislation is enacted and implemented uniformly to check gau rakshaks.

Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha said the Centre was alive to the situation and is trying to deal with it. He said the main concern was maintaining law and order.

Chief Justice Misra asserted that “nobody can take law into their hands and the onus was on the state governments to prevent such incidents.”

It may be recalled that on September 6 last year, the apex court had asked all States to take stern measures to stop violence in the name of cow protection. It had directed all States to appoint senior police officers as nodal officer in every district within a week of its order and act promptly to check cow vigilantes from behaving like they are “law unto themselves”.

Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments had failed to comply with the directions laid out by the Supreme Court prompting Gandhi to file contempt pleas against them. The Supreme Court has now sought responses from the three states.

A apex court bench, while reserving its verdict in the twin petitions, said: “Let the compliance reports be filed (by the States)… nobody can wash off their hands (from their duty). We will give directions to all the States.”

—India Legal Bureau

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