Legality of Cow Vigilantism : September 23, 2017
The bench, comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, began the day’s hearing by monitoring compliance with the orders issued in the previous hearing – namely that State Governments appoint nodal officers to monitor prevention and punishment of cow vigilantism. The hearing commenced with Ms. Indira Jaising, representing the petitioner Tushar Gandhi, observing that only Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Rajasthan had filed compliance affidavits. The Chief Justice noted that all States were required to comply with this order, not only those who were parties before it, and directed all remaining States to file their compliance affidavits on or before 30th October 2017.
Ms. Jaising then brought up the issue of 15-year-old Junaid who had been killed on a train by cow vigilantes. She noted that despite there being no ambiguity about the circumstances and facts of his killing, and the existence of various Victim Compensation Schemes that bound States to provide compensation to victims of violence, funds had not been disbursed to his family. The Chief Justice affirmed that it was the obligation of the State to compensate victims under the Schemes laid down as per law but refused to tag Junaid’s matter to this petition.
Indira Jaisingh also informed the bench that in response to Centre’s plea in previous hearings that since “law and order” was a State subject, she had prepared a memo which examined the scope of “Co-operative Federalism” and Centre’s power to direct States under Article 256 and she would like to place it before the judiciary. She also prayed before the bench to direct the Union to formulate a much-needed national-level policy on prevention of such vigilantism. The Chief Justice pointed out that the Court had refrained from doing so in the first hearing because ultimately law and order was a State subject and it was for the States to suggest ideas and reach a consensus that could then be co-opted into a national-level policy.
Mr. Kapil Sibal, representing Tehseen Poonawalla, then spoke regarding the status of criminal investigations into instances of vigilantism. He noted that while FIRs were filed, no further action was taken and frequently perpetrators were out on bail and victims threatened. He observed that the status of the criminal proceedings had not been included by the States in their affidavits. Ms. Jaising added that only the State of Uttar Pradesh (UP) had included this information and it revealed that frequently cross-FIRs were filed against the victims themselves in an attempt to harass and intimidate them. Mr. Sibal urged the Court to direct States to include this information in their reports as a nudge or push from the Supreme Court would ensure that some action was taken. But the Chief Justice was disinclined to take any action. The Chief Justice also noted that until the reports from all States were received no further directions could be given and all of these issues could be dealt with in greater detail on the next date of listing, i.e., 31 October 2017.
(This post relies on the contributions of Ms. Ashrutha Rai)