The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it abundantly clear that the cases of lynching by cow vigilantes were “crimes” and not merely law and order problem.
Putting the onus on the states to check such incidents, the apex court said the states must check such incidents and ensure no one can takes law into his hands.
The top court reserved its verdict on a plea seeking formulation of guidelines to curb such violent incidents in the country, as it took serious note of mob violence but said that it cannot be confined to any particular motive.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said “we will pass an elaborate order in this regard on the petition. Hearing concluded. Judgement reserved.”
During the hearing, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar Gandhi, said that lynchings by cow vigilantes were happening despite the top court’s orders directing the states to appoint nodal officers in each districts.
“A lynching incident has taken place just 60 kilometres from Delhi,” she said.
To this, the bench said “nobody can take law into their hands. The issue is how it can be prevented. States are under obligation to prevent any such incidents”.
As Jaising argued that such incidents normally went beyond the description of law and order, the bench said “this is not a law and order issue but a crime and States needs to be more responsible in dealing with these incidents.”
The senior lawyer also contended that these incidents of mob violence had “a certain pattern and a motive”.
To this, the Chief Justice observed, “we shall not confine these incidents to any particular motive. This is mob violence, which is a crime. Centre should frame a scheme under Article 257 (Control of the Union over States in certain cases) of Constitution.”
Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha said the Centre was alive to the situation and trying to deal with it.
“The union government is alive to the incidents of mob violence. Formulation of a scheme is an unnecessary exercise. The main concern was maintaining law and order and whether the states are implementing the apex court’s directions”, he said.
Jaising said the Centre cannot get away by just issuing advisories, but they have to act on their advisories.
“They want to wash away their hands off from these incidents by just issuing advisories. The role of the Union is to ensure that statutes and advisories are implemented in true letter and spirit,” she said.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla, suggested several measures to curb incidents of mob lynching. He said that a direction be issued by the court for formulation of guidelines to curb such incidents of mob lynching.
Narasimha argued that the real matter of concern was the continuous monitoring and controlling the law and order situation and “we have to take cognizance of that”.
Jaising said that compensation should also be paid to the victims of mob violence.
The bench asked Jaising how can the court categorise the compensation for victims as there were several categories of injury like simple, grievous and fatal.
“Categories are already there under Article 15 (discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Constitution. Even internationally, there is a recognised category of targetted violence where compensation can be paid. Mob lynching are targetted violence based on religion or caste,” the senior lawyer replied.
The bench then said “anyone can be a victim of mob violence and it cannot be linked to any particular religion or caste”.
On September 6 last year, the apex court had asked all the states to take stern measures to stop violence in the name of cow protection, including appointing of senior police officers as nodal officer in every district within a week and acting promptly to check cow vigilantes from behaving like they are “law unto themselves”.
The apex court had sought response from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments on a plea seeking contempt action for not following its order to take stern steps to stop violence in the name of cow vigilantism.
A contempt petition was filed by Tushar Gandhi, saying the three states have not complied with the top court order of September 6 last year.
(With PTI inputs)