The Supreme Court has been urged to formulate comprehensive guidelines to ensure that the Indian law and order machinery effectively curtails the menace of cow vigilantism and as importantly, protects victims from the marginalised sections. This would ensure some measure of monitoring and due diligence recording of rogue states given the increase in the menace. Among the crucial suggestions for the guidelines is the appointment of a Nodal Officer in all districts of the worst affected states –not below the rank of Superintendent of Police- to ensure strict preventive measures against lynchings.
Expressing strong outrage at the growing incidents of such unfettered and barbaric violence, the Court said, “Such incidents are unfathomable and just cannot be allowed to happen.” The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed against the menace of lynching that has begun targeting minorities and Dalits, a bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud has posted the matter (soliciting the state’s response) for orders. Directions are expected within the next few weeks though it is expected that the matter will be kept pending by the Court to ensure compliance by the states.
While a batch of petitions were heard on the issue, the core petition was argued by senior counsel Sanjay R. Hedge assisted by Anas Tanvir who appeared before the court. They also submitted the Guidelines detailed below. On April 17 last year, the Supreme Court had issued notice on this petition. The Central government had been compelled to state that it did not support this violent vigilantism.
The appointment of a Nodal officer in all districts who is required to take steps against provocative messaging (and videos) as also rumour mongering is a crucial first step to curtailing this kind of targeted violence. Besides, timely and quality legal aid to the victims of marginalised communities in case an incident takes place as also compensation within 30 days is a crucial aspect outlined in the guidelines. The original prayer in the petition also called for a repeal of the ‘bad laws’ that sanctified vigilantism. (Declaring Section 40 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act, 1960, 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 as Unconstitutional.)
Read the extensive report on the petition here.
The writ petition, filed by Dalit leader and social activist Martin Macwan, seeking directions to various State Governments to take immediate and necessary actions against the Cow Protection Groups also referred as Gau Raksha Dals and to the Central Government to ban such gangs/groups, comes up for hearing in the Supreme Court on July 3, 2018. The petition, filed in 2017, also prays for the removal of violent content uploaded by these Gau Raksha Dals on various modes of social media and compensation from the concerned state governments for the victims of violence committed by these ‘vigilantes’.
The petition had initially sought that the Court takes steps against cow protection groups indulging in violence across the country. The Petitioner has brought to the notice of this Court, a series of incidents which have resulted in the loss of livelihood, injury and death of persons at the hands of self-styled vigilante groups/lynch mobs.
However, given the alarming increase in rise of in incidents of lynching/mob-violence across the Country, we are of the opinion that it is necessary to lay down guidelines for the effective protection of the constitutional rights of vulnerable persons, to punish acts of lynching/mob-violence and to provide for rehabilitation of its victim and their families.
Several states have cow protection laws that in fact empower non-state actors to take law into their own hands and often indulge in violence against vulnerable sections.
- Each state should nominate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as the Nodal Officer in each District. The nodal officer shall ensure that preventive measures are taken against incidents of mob violence/lynching. In performing his functions, the nodal officer shall be aided by the Officer In-charge of the police station of the concerned areas.
- The State Governments should forthwith identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of lynching/mob-violence have been reported in the recent past, e.g., in the last five years.The Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall issue directives/advisories to the Nodal Officer of the concerned Districts for ensuring that special care is taken to prevent incidents of lynching/mob-violence in identified areas.
- Every police officer, directly in charge of maintaining law and order in an area shall take all reasonable steps to prevent any act of lynching including its incitement and commission. In doing so, he shall make all possible efforts to identify and prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material or any other means employed in order to incite or promote lynching of a particular person or group of persons.
- Every police officer, directly in charge of maintaining law and order in an area shall make all possible efforts to identify patterns of violence in the area under his jurisdiction, that indicate occurrence of targeted violence, including the creation or existence of hostile environment against a person or group of persons.
- It shall be the duty of every police officer, directly in charge of maintaining law and order in an area,to exercise his authority on a mob in order to cause it to disperse. In exercise of his authority, such a police officer may use such powers as vested in him under Section 129 of the Code.
- If an incident of lynching/mob-violence takes place despite the measures taken by the state, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an F.I.R. under the appropriate provisions of law. Intimation of the registration of the FIR shall be promptly given to the Nodal Officer in the district who, in turn, shall ensure that effective investigation is carried out.
- Cases where a charge sheet is not filed within a period of three months from the date of registration of the First Information Report shall be reviewed by the Nodal Officer. The Nodal Officer may pass orders for a fresh investigation by another officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police when he is of the considered opinion that the same is necessary.
- Immediate steps shall be taken by the district administration to provide security to the victim of lynching/mob-violence and his/her family members.
- The State Government through the office of the Chief Secretary shall provide Compensation to victims of lynching within 30 days of the incident. Where the death of a person has occurred as a consequence of lynching, the compensation for such death shall be paid to the next of kin of the deceased.
- While computing compensation, the State Government must give due regard to the bodily injury, psychological injury, material injury and loss of earnings including loss opportunity of employment and education, expenses incurred on account of legal and medicinal assistance.
- Wherever it is found that a police officer, or an officer of the district administration has deliberately not complied with these directions or has failed to exercise the power legally vested in him in order to prevent or investigate an act of lynching/mob-violence, such action will be regarded as wilful negligence/misconduct. Disciplinary action as per extant service rules must be taken against the same. An enquiry regarding the same must be concluded within 6 months.
Measures for an Effective Trial
- Incidents of lynching/mob-violence shall be tried by specially designated fast-track courts in each district. Such a Court shall hold the trial of an offence on a day-to-day basis. The trial shall preferably be concluded within six months of the date of taking cognizance of the offence.
- A Designated court may, on an application made by a witness in any proceedings before it or by the Public Prosecutor in relation to such witness or on its own motion, take such measures as it deems fit for keeping the identity and address of the witness secret.
- A victim shall have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any court proceeding. He or she shall be entitled to be heard at any proceeding under this Act in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused or any connected proceedings or arguments and file written submissions on conviction, acquittal or sentencing.
- A victim shall be entitled to receive free legal aid if he/ she so chooses and to engage any advocate who he or she chooses from among those enrolled in the legal aid panel under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and the Legal Aid Services Authority established under the said Act shall pay all costs, expenses and fees of the advocate appointed by the victim or informant in accordance with relevant rules.
- It shall be the duty and responsibility of the State Government for making arrangements for the protection of victims, and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence.
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