Case Description

17th July 2018, the Court delivered its judgment, issuing guidelines to curb acts of cow vigilantism. The Court did not address the question of the constitutional validity of immunity provisions for cow vigilantes.

Background

On 17th July 2018, the Court pronounced its judgment in an unanimous judgment, authored by CJI Dipak Misra:

 

Distressed by the increasing incidents of cow-vigilantism in the country, three individuals: Martin Macwan, a Dalit rights activist; Mohanbhai Hamir Bhai Bedva, an alleged victim of such violence and Tehseen Poonawalla, an activist lawyer, filed the writ petitions in Supreme Court in August, 2016. They sought the Court to issue a direction to the Centre and some States to take action against cow vigilantes.

 

The Petitioners drew the Court's attention to the rise of incidents of cow vigilantism, where private citizens violently punish people who they suspect of consuming beef. Notable examples include:

The lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri (UP) over alleged beef consumption

The hanging of two men in Jharkhand by cow vigilantes

The flogging of Dalits in Una

The recent lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar on suspicion of smuggling a cow.

 

The petitioners challenged the provisions of cow protection laws of 6 States protecting cow vigilantes – Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Karnataka. In particular they challenge the provisions that prohibit any legal action against persons for actions done in ‘good faith’ under the law.

 

For example, Section 13 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 reads - "that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall be instituted against any person for any anything which is in good faith or intended to be done under this Act or the rules made thereunder".

 

On April 7, 2017, the 3 judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra, issued notice to the Centre and the six States in quetstion.

 

On 13th July, the Bench delivered its judgment, issuing guidelines to curb mob vigilantism. On 20th August 2018, the Court began monitoring the implementation of the guidelines it issued.

Issues

1) Whether State cow protection laws, which protects cow vigilantes acting in ‘good faith' are constitutional?

2) Whether State and Central Governments should make separate laws addressing the offence of lynching?

3) Whether States and the Centre should frame a victim compensation scheme to address the issue of lynching?

Judges