New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday said that those who indulge in violence in the name of ‘cow vigilantism’ need to be brought to justice and all states in India are under obligation to compensate the victims of cow vigilantism.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, issued the directions in reaction to a petition filed by social activist Tushar Gandhi. The petition said under Article 256 of the Constitution, the Centre has powers to issue directions to states on issues related to law and order.
“There have been more than 60 incidents across India where people were assaulted and even beaten to death after allegations that they had killed cows or were in possession of beef. There are groups which are committing atrocities against Dalits [those belonging to lower castes according to the Hindu caste system] and other minorities in the name of protection of cows, and they needed to be regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public morality and law and order in the country,” senior advocate Indira Jaisingh said appearing on behalf of Gandhi.
The SC also directed all states to file a compliance report in connection with the increasing incidents of violence due to cow vigilantism. The Court asked all states to take stern steps to stop violence in the name of cow protection by appointing a senior police officer as nodal officer in every district and by acting promptly to keep in check cow vigilantes behaving like they were “law unto themselves”.
“The senior police officer shall take prompt action and ensure that vigilante groups and such people are prosecuted with [promptly]. The people should not take law into their hands and they should not behave as if they were law unto themselves. This must stop. Such acts are not permissible,” the Court added.
In India, where cows are venerated by a large segment of the population, cow vigilante violence involving mob attacks in the name of cow protection has swelled since 2014. Recently emerged cow vigilante groups, claiming to be protecting cattle, have accused some Indian Muslims and Dalits of cattle theft or slaughter, and targeted violence against them, leading to a number of deaths.
Human Rights Watch recently reported that there has been a surge in cow vigilante violence in India since 2015. The surge is attributed to the recent rise in Hindu nationalism in India. Many vigilante groups say they feel “empowered” by the victory of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 general election.