The Supreme Court on 7 April 2017 sought response from six states, namely Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, on a plea seeking a ban on cow vigilantes (‘Gau Raksha’) groups there. A bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar issued notices to these states and asked them to file their reply within three weeks. The court sought the response from these states during the brief hearing a petition referring to the recent incident at Alwar in Rajasthan where a man was killed allegedly by a mob of cow vigilante group.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner claimed that the ground-level situation in these states was worrisome as the cow vigilante groups were resorting to violence there. The response of the six states was sought after the Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing on behalf of the Union Government told the bench that formal notices were not issued to the states on the plea. The bench has fixed the matter for hearing on 3 May 2017.
Earlier on 21 October 2016, the apex court agreed to examine the plea, which sought action against cow vigilantes. The plea mentioned that these vigilantes were allegedly indulged in violence and committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities. Activist Tehseen S Poonawalla, in his plea alleged that these groups were committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities in the name of protection of cows and other bovines and they needed to be regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public morality and law and order in the country.
The plea filed in the Supreme Court seeks to declare certain clauses of Acts of few states as unconstitutional. These acts provide for protection of persons acting in good faith under the Act or rules. They are:
• Section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954
• Section 13 of Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976
• Section 15 of Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964
The plea termed these laws as a catalyst to violence perpetrated by these vigilant groups. Besides, the plea seeks an action against the vigilante. The petition said the atrocities committed by these cow vigilantes were punishable under various provisions of IPC and under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.