Do not protect any kind of vigilantism: SC seeks Centre, states response on vigilantism

Published on Jul 21, 2017 08:04 PM IST

The apex court’s statements comes amid a huge row growing in the Parliament over instances of violence sparked by vigilante groups over cows and Dalit atrocities.

Volunteers of the vigilante group of Gau Raksha Dal (cow protection squad) gather to inspect a truck on a highway in Taranagar in Rajasthan in November 2015.(AFP File Photo)
Volunteers of the vigilante group of Gau Raksha Dal (cow protection squad) gather to inspect a truck on a highway in Taranagar in Rajasthan in November 2015.(AFP File Photo)
Press Trust of India, New Delhi | ByPress Trust of India

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and the states not to protect any kind of vigilantism and sought their response on violent incidents in the garb of cow protection.

The apex court did so even as the Centre said it condemns any kind of vigilantism but the law and order is a state subject and that it has no role to play in the matter.

However, a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra said that Centre and state should not protect any kind of vigilantism.

“You say that law and order is a state subject and states are taking actions as per law. You don’t protect any kind of vigilantism,” the bench, also comprising AM Khanwilkar and MM Shantanagoudar, asserted.

Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that Parliament was also informed on Thursday by the government that it does not support any kind of vigilantism.

“Law and order is a state subject and Central government does not have any role to play into it. However, Union of India is of the view that no vigilante group has any space in the country as per procedures of law. It does not support any kind of vigilantism by private persons,” Kumar said.

He sought some time to file a reply to the petition.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde appearing for one of the petitioners said that the Centre and various states have not filed their replies to the petition.

The counsel appearing for Gujarat said that there was only one such incident of cow vigilantism in the state and necessary action has been taken against those responsible.

Jharkhand in its reply accepted that few incidents of violence have indeed taken place in the recent past but termed them as “stray incidents” and said that people engaging in violence has been booked as per law.

In its affidavit it said, compensation has been paid to the victims of violence perpetrated by Gau Rakshaks (cow vigilante groups) and added that steps have been taken to restore “confidence of the aggrieved community.”

The apex court also sought the assistance of the Centre and states for removing violent content related to cow vigilantism uploaded on social media.

The bench asked Centre and other states to file their detailed reply and posted the matter for further hearing on September 6.

The apex court had on April 7 sought the response of six states on the plea, filed on October 21 last year, seeking action against cow vigilantes who were allegedly indulging in violence and committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities.

Activist Tehseen S Poonawalla, in his plea, said violence committed by these ‘Gau Raksha’ groups has reached such proportions that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared them as people who were “destroying the society”.

The plea also alleged that these groups were committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities in the name of protecting cows and other bovines and they needed to be “regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public morality and law and order in the country”.

“The menace caused by the so-called cow protection groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes,” the petition submitted.

The plea sought to declare as “unconstitutional” section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954, Section 13 of Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976, and Section 15 of Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, which provide for protection of persons acting in good faith under the Act or rules.

Seeking action against the vigilantes, the petition said the atrocities committed by them were punishable under various provisions of IPC and under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.

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