Merely days after a Muslim man brutally beaten up by cow vigilantes in Rajashtan's Alwar district died from his injuries, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Karnataka to respond on the issue of cow vigilantism in three weeks.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar issued the notices on a plea seeking a ban on cow vigilante groups in the six states. The bench has fixed the matter for hearing on 3 May.
This notice comes after 55-year-old Pehlu Khan died on Monday night after he and at least four others were injured when a mob attacked nearly 15 persons in Alwar, Rajasthan, over suspicion that Khan and the others were involved in illegal cow smuggling.
Khan was beaten up despite the fact that he produced documents to show that they had bought the cows and were not involved in illegal cow smuggling.
During the brief hearing in the apex court, the counsel appearing for the petitioner referred to the recent incident at Alwar. The counsel claimed that the ground-level situation in these states was worrisome as the cow vigilante groups were resorting to violence there.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that formal notices were not issued to the states on the plea after which the apex court sought response from these six states.
The Supreme Court had on 21 October last year agreed to examine the plea which sought action against cow vigilantes who were allegedly indulging in violence and committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities.
Activist Tehseen S Poonawalla, in his plea, said violence committed by these 'Gau Raksha' groups have reached to such proportions that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared them as people who are "destroying the society".
The plea also 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 menace caused by the so-called cow protection groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes," the petition said.
The plea sought to declare as "unconstitutional" section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954, Section 13 of Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976, and Section 15 of Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, which provide for protection of persons acting in good faith under the Act or rules.
"These laws and the protection granted therewith act as a catalyst to violence perpetrated by these vigilante groups," it said.
Seeking action against the vigilantes, the petition said the atrocities committed by them were punishable under various provisions of IPC and under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.
A week ago, the punishment for those found guilty of cow slaughter in poll-bound Gujarat was enhanced to life term under a more stringent law passed on Friday by the state Assembly.
With the passing of the Amendment Bill, Gujarat became the first state in the country to make cow slaughter punishable with a life term. Cow slaughter had also been made a non-bailable offence.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's direction to police officials to prepare an action plan for closure of illegal slaughter houses across the state had sparked controversy and even furore in the Rajya Sabha, as a TMC member said that due to the "arbitrary clampdown", the livelihood of thousands of people had been affected.
On Thursday, BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha said in the Maharashtra Assembly that cow slaughter should be punishable by death.
He was speaking during a debate on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill which regularises the bullock cart races in Maharashtra.
"Cow slaughter should be punishable by death and beef export should be stopped," Lodha said.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 12:34 PM