Our Correspondent / New Delhi
In a major ruling Supreme Court today asked all States and Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers district-wise to crack down on and prosecute cow vigilante groups that engage in violence and mayhem. It said that cow vigilantism has to stop as it is not permissible under the law.
Directing the appointment of nodal officers, the court instructed the Chief Secretaries of the states to file affidavits on the action taken, including the deployment of highway patrols.
“This must stop. What action have you taken? It is not permissible. There has to be some kind of action,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said.
The remarks came as advocate Indira Jaising drew the court’s attention towards the violence being unleashed by the vigilante groups across the nation on mere suspicion of beef consumption.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justive Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy, and A.M. Khanwilkar was hearing an intervention by Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, about the lack of responsibility and accountability shown by the Centre and State administrations even as cow vigilantes wreaked havoc and resorted to murder in broad daylight in the name of the cow.
Dalits and Muslims have been at the receiving end of a rash of violence unleashed by lynch mobs, especially in the northern States.
The court directed the Centre to respond to a submission by senior advocate Indira Jaising for Mr. Gandhi that the Centre cannot wash their hands of its constitutional responsibility under Article 256 to instruct the States to take “necessary” steps in law to save innocent human lives from fury of the mobs.
The court said the Centre should reply to this argument made by Mr. Gandhi in the spirit of “co-operative federalism”.
“Non-violence is the founding faith of this country. The Centre cannot turn its back on the violence. The States have the responsibility to lodge FIRs against these vigilantes,” Ms. Jaising submitted.
“You have to stop it (violence),” Chief Justice Misra told Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the four northern States.
The court asked Mr. Mehta to take instructions from the Centre, to specify its role under Article 256 and the steps it would take from its side to prevent any future incidents of violence.
Pointing out that most of the violent incidents had occurred on highways, Ms. Jaising said the States should take steps to initiate highway patrolling.
The court directed the Chief Secretaries and the Directors General of Police of States to consult each other and respond to the court. The Centre shall also indicate its views on this issue.
The court posted the case for hearing on September 22. In the previous hearing, the Centre said ending vigilantism and violence by cow protection groups is a ‘State subject’ and the Centre has no role to play, though it condemns all forms of violence.
A bunch of petitions led by Congress activist Tehseen Poonawalla had sought criminal action against cow vigilante groups whose recent rampages and lynchings have seen communal tensions rise in the country.
The petitions had also sought a direction to the Central and State govetnments to pull down all the videos of violence uploaded by cow vigilante groups from social media sites.