This case will decide if Cow Vigilantes can be given legitimacy under the law.
There seems to be a new wave of violence unleashed by the mobs of self-proclaimed Gau Rakshak (cow vigilantes) across the country. 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. 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 petition in Supreme Court in August, 2016 seeking direction to the Centre and some states to take action against so-called cow vigilantes.
Specifically, the petitioners challenged the provisions of cow protection legislation of 6 States – Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Karnataka which give legitimacy to cow vigilantes. The specific provisions challenged prohibit any legal action against persons for actions done in ‘good faith’ under the law. For instance, Sec. 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 Chief Justice Dipak Misra, issued notice to Centre and six States where such vigilante groups are recognised and given licenses.
Whether the provision of Cow Protection legislations of 6 States which give immunity to actions of Cow Vigilantes acting in ‘good faith’ is constitutional?