Podcast on Cow Vigilantism Case (Tehseen Poonawalla v UOI)

September 6, 2017

We have produced a podcast on the ongoing Cow Vigitantism case which can be accessed here.

The transcript :

Good Morning. This Podcast is recorded on 6th September 2017. This is Satya Prasoon from Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bangalore.

In 2017 CLPR set up Supreme Court Observer to track high impactful cases. SCO is non-partisan effort to make the work of Supreme Court intellgible and easily accessible to any one interested in Indian public affairs.

Today, I will talk about an ongoing case, Tehseen Poonawalla v UOI which is before the Supreme Court. This relates to the issue of cow vigilantism.

There seems to be a new wave of violence unleashed by the mobs of self-proclaimed  cow vigilantes across the country. The incidents of cow vigilantes, who are private citizens resorting to violence against people who they suspect of carrying or consuming beef is on the rise. It started with lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri (UP) over alleged beef consumption, then hanging of two men in Jharkhand by cow vigilantes, flogging of Dalits in Una and recently, lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar on suspicion of smuggling cow. These are few of the numerous incidents where cow vigilantes have used violence as a resort. Distressed by the increasing incidents of cow-vigilantism in the country, three individuals – Martin Macwan, a Dalit rights activist, Mohanbhai Hamir Bhai Bedva, an alleged victim of such violence, and Tehseen Poonawalla, an activist- filed the writ petition petition in Supreme Court in August, 2016 asking the Centre to take action against so-called cow vigilantes and specifically, the petitioners challenged the provisions of cow protection legislations of 6 States – Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and Karnataka which give legitimacy to cow vigilantes. The provisions which have been challenged prohibit any legal action against persons for actions done in ‘good faith’ under the law.  For instance, Sec. 13 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 reads – “that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall be instituted against any person for any anything which is in good faith or intended to be done under this Act or the rules made thereunder ”.

The petitioners have compared “cow vigilantes” to the disbanded “Salwa Judum”, a civilian vigilante group formed by the Chhattisgarh government which armed civilians to kill Naxalites. In 2011, in case of Nandini Sundar v UOI, the Supreme Court had held the appointment of Salwa Judum – the civilian vigilante groups under Chattisgarh Police Act, 2007 to be unconstitutional.

On April 7, 2017, the 3 judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar issued notice to Centre and the six States to repond to the writ petition filed by the petitioners.

This case will decide if cow vigilantes can be given any legitimacy under the State law.  The main legal issue, is whether the provision of Cow Protection Legislations of 6 States which give immunity to actions of civilians acting in ‘good faith’ is constitutional? This case is very significant because while the vigilantism of any sort is a social evil but the State providing legitimacy to such vigilantism is akin to State endorsing the violence perpertated by private citizens.

There is a hearing today on the matter and we will keep you updated on the subsequent proceedings.

Thank You