This case will decide if cow vigilantees can be given protection under existing cow protection legislations.
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, 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 have pointed out that the incidents of cow vigilantes, who are private citizens ushering in violence on people who they suspect of carrying, consuming beef is on the rise. It started with the lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri (UP) over alleged beef consumption, then hanging of two men in Jharkhand by cow vigilantes, flogging of Dalits in Una and recently, the lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar on suspicion of smuggling cow. These are few of the numerous incidents where cow vigilantes have used violence as a resort.
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 Centre and six States where such vigilante groups are recognised and given licenses.
Whether the provision of cow protection laws of 6 States which does not punish cow vigilantes acting in ‘good faith’ is constitutional?
Whether State and Central Government should make a separate law addressing the offence of lynching?
Whether State should frame a victim compensation scheme to address the issue of lynching?