The Supreme Court on Wednesday asserted that cow vigilantism has to stop and directed states/Union Territories to appoint district nodal officers to take steps to prevent and act against perpetrators of such violence.
"This must stop.
What action have you taken?
It is not permissible.
There has to be some kind of action, " a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar said.
The remarks came as lawyer Indira Jaising drew the court's attention to the violence unleashed by vigilante groups across the nation on mere suspicion of beef consumption.
Directing for the appointment of nodal officers in each district, the court instructed the state Chief Secretaries in coordination with Director Generals of Police to crack down on vigilante groups.
Referring to Jaising's observation that most such violence by vigilante groups was taking place on the national and state highways, the court said: "As far as highway patrolling is concerned, the Chief Secretary of each state, in consultation with the Director Generals of Police, shall take steps and file affidavits by the next date of hearing. "
The court asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to take instructions from the Centre to specify its role under Article 256 of the Constitution and the steps it would take to prevent any such violence in future.
The court direction to Mehta came as Jaising told the court that it was the Centre's obligation to issue directions to the states so that the concept of cooperative federalism was sustained and remained stable.
She said that in the spirit of "cooperative federalism", the Centre was duty bound to direct the states to act against cow vigilantes.
This could not be treated merely as a law and order issue, she added.
The court order came on a batch of petitions, including by Tushar Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
When Jaising told the bench during the course of hearing that the petitioner was Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that "personalities do not matter" to the court.
Referring to the Centre's statement in the court on July 21 that it did not support the violence unleashed by vigilante groups in the name of cow protection, shifting the onus onto the states that it was a law and order issue, Indira Jaising said Muslims and Dalits were the target of lynch mobs.
Recounting a series of incidents since July 21, Jaising urged the apex court to ask the Centre to issue directions to the states for action against cow viogilates and to curb their activities.
"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 FIRs against these vigilantes, " Jaising told the apex court.
She said it was incumbent on state law and order enforcing agencies not only to register cases in such incidents but also to ensure that vigilante groups do not take law into their own hands and indulge in violence.
Appearing for Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that these states would appoint senior police officers as Nodal Officers in each of their districts, and they shall ensure that these vigilantes do not take law in their own hands or behave in a manner that they were law unto themselves.