Attacks on innocents by cow vigilantes must stop, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
It ordered the States and the Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers in every district to crack down on such groups.
BJP-ruled Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat accepted the apex court’s suggestion to appoint dedicated officers in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to prevent ‘gau rakshaks,’ as they call themselves, from taking the law into their own hands or becoming a law unto themselves.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar was hearing an intervention by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Tushar Gandhi, about the lack of responsibility and accountability shown by the Centre and State administrations as vigilante groups wreaked havoc and resorted to murder in broad daylight in the name of the cow.
Dalits and Muslims have reportedly been at the receiving end of violence unleashed by lynch mobs, especially in the four northern States. The court exhorted the Centre to uphold its constitutional mandate under Article 256 and direct the States to act against the groups. It said the Centre could not remain silent, leaving everything to the States.
The court directed the Centre to respond to a submission by senior advocate Indira Jaising, for Mr. Gandhi, that the government cannot wash its hands of its constitutional responsibility under Article 256. The Centre should reply to this argument in the spirit of “co-operative federalism.”
The Centre has maintained that violence by ‘gau rakshaks’ was a ‘State subject’ and it had no role to play, though it condemned all forms of violence.
“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 First Information Reports against these vigilantes,” Ms. Jaising submitted.
“You have to stop it [the violence],” Chief Justice Misra told Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the four northern States.
‘Do not politicise issue’
But when senior advocate Colin Gonsalves raised the issue of communal violence supported by certain “groups” and the murder of Bengaluru journalist Gauri Lankesh, the court stopped him, saying he should not politicise the issue.
Ms. Jaising said that most of the violent incidents had occurred on highways. The court directed the Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police to take steps to protect the highways from vigilante mobsThe Centre must also indicate its views on this issue.
Justice Khanwilkar wondered why no one had filed PIL pleas against the carcasses of slaughtered animals found strewn on roads and public places.
The court posted the case for further hearing on September 22.
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