Legality of Cow Vigilantism Day 4: September 6, 2017
Today the hearings commenced with arguments by Ms. Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of one of the petitioners, before a 3-judge bench comprising the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice AM Khanwilkar.
Ms. Jaising drew attention to the order of the Court on 21.07.17, which recorded the statement of the Solicitor General, Mr Ranjit Kumar, that the Centre did not support the vigilantism of these cow protection groups. She observed that while this was heartening, but it did not mean that the Centre could evade further responsibility on the plea of law and order being within the purview of the States. This was especially true in light of the 66 incidents of lynching by such groups that had occurred since that order. She submitted a list of these incidents to the court and described a few of the more heinous ones, including attacks on particularly vulnerable sections such as women, children and Dalits, in States ranging from Jharkhand, Bihar and UP to Gujarat. In this regard, she reiterated that, as requested in her petition, the Central Government must issue directions to all States to prevent and prosecute such incidents.
Mr Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, appearing for the petitioners in the third connected matter, rose at this point to stress that the Central Government was not barred from interference, as they had claimed in their statement on July 21, 2017, since it was not, in fact, a mere question of law and order. He further emphasized that he himself had recorded over 20 instances of senior party leaders appearing on national television and inciting the public to attack, even “hang”, those who ate beef.
The Chief Justice noted that it was imperative to stop such incidents and that the only question before the court was how to go about this. In this regard, he questioned the Solicitor General, who was also appearing on behalf of a few of the concerned States, on his stance regarding the issuance of such Central Government directions. The Solicitor General sought leave to take instruction from the Centre in this regard, prior to the next hearing.
Accordingly, the bench issued notice in the connected petitions as well and issued interim directions to all State Governments to appoint a senior police officer, who would act as a nodal officer and who would take steps to ensure that no vigilante groups took the law into their own hands. In case of occurrence of such incidents, this nodal officer would be responsible for ensuring that the culprits were brought to book. The Chief Secretary of each State, along with the Director General of Police, would be responsible for nominating the senior police officer in this regard. All States were directed to file affidavits on the action taken in this regard, by the date of the next hearing.
The matter has been listed to be heard on 22.09.17.