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Shajeeda O.M Tajdeen, (LLM) S.N.D.T University
A three-judge bench of the Apex Court headed by the Chief Justice along with Justice A.M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, on Friday made it very clear that cow vigilantes cannot be let off so easily. The Supreme Court stated that people who are involved in such act cannot be allowed to wash their “Hands off” after committing any offence in the name of protection of religion. The Apex Court further asked its top officials to enlighten the Court with all the possible actions which can be taken to control and curb such vigilantism. The Apex Court was of the view that it is the duty of the States to compensate the sufferers of lynching cases, and the respective States need not wait for any judicial order before acting in this behalf.
While pronouncing this decision the Court further added that the people who have suffered on account of such violence vigilantism, should be provided with adequate monetary compensation, by their respective States and it has also ordered all the 29 States and Union Territories to designate police officers at district level within a week, such officers will be under an obligation to track and tackle any type of violence by Gau Rakshaks. Continuing with this the Apex Court also wanted all the States and Union Territories to submit a report with respect to implementing its decisions of formulating a procedure to strictly deal with the Gau-Rakshaks. After which, the deciding bench was informed that States of Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, have already submitted their reports and Maharashtra and Bihar would be doing the same during the day. After taking into consideration the filings of the compliance reports by the above mentioned States, the Top Court ordered the Chief Secretaries of the remaining 22 States to submit the same by 13th October, 2017.
The matter was brought up in the Apex Court after Tehseen S Poonawala and activists Tushar Gandhi (great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi) filed a petition seeking orders from it, to control and curb cow vigilantism. Advocate Indira Jaising, counseling on behalf of Gandhi, asked the Court to instruct the Union Government to formulate a policy having a nation-wide jurisdiction, which can regulate, suppress and curb violence in the name of cow vigilantism. She also apprised the Supreme Court that were many instances, where the Judiciary had awarded monetary compensation to the victims, but unfortunately the award only remained on the piece of paper due of lack of execution, and victims gained nothing out of the decision. Advocate Indira further took up the matter of Junaid, who was lynched by his fellow commuters on 23rd June, 2017 while returning from Delhi, she added that despite the Courts direction of awarding Junaid’s kith and kin with compensation they received nothing. She requested the Apex Court to frame a policy which shall govern matters pertaining to compensation in cases of cow-vigilantism violence. She also took up the case of Pehlu Khan, a resident of Rajasthan who had to lose his life because of Gau Rakshaks and instead of getting justice his family was constantly facing harassment through counter cases. After hearing her contentions, the bench told her to avoid clubbing up the two issues of cow-vigilantism and compensation. The Bench clarified its stand by stating that both the matters are different, and if a separate petition is filed for compensation issues, the Court will definitely consider the same.
The Apex Court while pronouncing this decision ordered the States to come up with security measures especially on highways, where many self-styled cow vigilant groups have taken law into their hands and have harassed people on mere suspicion for carrying and possessing beef.
Post such incidents of frequents attacks by Gau-Rakshaks, allegations are made that such type of violence has seen a boost after the commencement of BJP Government’s tenure because in many of BJP led areas there are specific legal provisions which are made with an intention to penalize cow slaughter. The Present Government has also been accused of targeting the minorities by using “cow protection” as their shield.
This matter along with all the PILs has been scheduled for hearing on 31st October 2017. The Apex Court is all set to sternly decide on this sensitive issues which interconnected with faith and religion.