Supreme Court
Supreme Court of IndiaReuters

The Supreme Court on Friday (April 7) issued notices to six states — Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Gujarat — on rising incidents of cow vigilantism. The notice was issued on a petition seeking ban on cow vigilantes.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar asked the states to file a response within three weeks. The next hearing is on May 3. 

The notice came amid nationwide outrage over the killing of a man, Pehlu Khan, allegedly by 'gau-rakshaks' in the Alwar district of Rajasthan followed by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's comment in Parliament that the incident did not happen the way it has been perceived.

The petition was filed by social activist Tehseen S Poonawalla, who said the violence by 'gau-rakshaks' has reached to such a level that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared them as people who are "destroying the society." The plea added that these 'gau rakshak' groups were resorting to violence against Dalits and minorities in the name of cow protection 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 stated. The lawyer, appearing for Poonawalla, also said the situation on the ground in these states was worrisome because such groups are committing violence there.

The petition 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 protection of persons acting in good faith under the Act or rules.

The petition also sought the issuance of a writ of Mandamus that would direct the Respondent State Governments to take immediate and necessary action against the cow protection groups that commit violence. It also sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus or any other writ or direction to remove violent content posted by such groups on social media.

"These laws and the protection granted therewith act as a catalyst to violence perpetrated by these vigilante groups," the petition said.