02, Jul 2018 | CJP Team
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 2016, 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 entire petition may be read here:
Stating clearly, that 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, it adds that
the series of violence is in furtherance of caste atrocities that Dalits have been subjected to since antiquity. It is a matter of great national dishonor that even in 21st Century, in our democratic nation based upon the principles of rule of law, certain communities and castes are being subjected to severe violence only due to accident of their birth in that particular caste.”
Though Article 17 of the Constitution of India abolishes untouchability, the same is still prevalent in our Country, narrates the petition who’s lead petitioner Martin Macwan, founder of the Navsrajan Trust, has found in empirical studies that, in 98.1% of villages surveyed, a Dalit cannot rent a house in a non-Dalit community. Further, in 97.6% of villages, Dalits must not touch the water pots or utensils of non-Dalits as such contact is considered defilement.
In the context of this historical oppression, a new dimension of violence and targeted oppression has been added :
these vigilantes groups are operating beyond the realm of law and are known to frequently take law in their hands with Police acting either as a mute spectator or found acting in concert with them. The atrocities committed by these vigilantes groups are punishable under various provisions of IPC as well as under Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989 but to no anvil.”
In many cases, it is the law that grants sanctity to the cow vigilantes with state governments providing identification cards to such vigilantes. These Vigilante Groups, in the garb of cow protection, enjoy an unlawful protection from their State Governments. For example, the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1956 provides that all persons exercising powers under this Act shall be deemed to be public servants within the meaning of Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code. It further provides that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall be instituted against any person for anything which is done in good faith or intended to be done under this Act or the rules made thereunder. These provisions are mutatis mutandis with the Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1956 as well as with the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964!
Further, the Gujarat Animal Prevention (Amendment) Rules, 2011 provides that the authorised person will also include office bearers of Panjarapol, Infermaries, Gaushalas, and Societies for prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) and Animal Welfare Organizations. It is submitted that there are over 200 hundred Gau Raksha Dals operating in Gujarat alone who frequently resort to violence. Further, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 states that apart from the Officer concerned, any other person so recognized will have power of seizure and Section 40 provides that such persons will have immunity from prosecution for acts done in bonafide belief.
Further, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Establishment and Regulation of Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Rules, 2001provides for establishment of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and gives it the power of search and seizure of animals as well as their licenses.
The petitioner submits that these laws and the protection granted therewith act as a catalyst to violence perpetrated by these vigilantes. The Supreme Court has directed to disband such groups in case of Nandini Sundar vs State of Chhattisgarh as reported in (2011) 7 SCC 547. The Supreme Court observed that the culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal economic ideology,and the false promises of ever increasing spirals of consumption leading to economicgrowth was the root cause of menace spread by Salwa Judum. Similarly, in the present case, the root cause of all the violence spread by the Vigilantes is caste as well as economic. The vigilantes groups appear to be goons conducting extortion in the guise of Gau Rakshaks.
The petitioner has also further submitted that in most cases the police and other law enforcement agencies are either complicit in such illegal actions or have merely been a mute spectators against such a breakdown of rule of law. The actions of these cow vigilantes groups are in complete violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as it takes away the victims “Right to life and personal liberty”. These actions undermine the rule of law in the country. The videos of such atrocities are readily available on Social Media and are inter alia spreading tension and causing enmity between caste and communities beyond doubt.
The petitioner has also stated that ‘sting operations conducted by various News Channels clearly show that these vigilante groups are mere extortionists in the garb of Cow Protection and are feeding on fear psychosisof victim as well as the community or caste that person belongs to. Similar aspersions were casted by the Hon’ble Prime Minister in one of his public speeches that 80% of such groups are anti social elements in the garb of GauRakshaks.’
Hence, since the actions of these vigilantes are in violation of Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution of India as the Dalits who were attacked at Unaor at East Godavri were only doing their traditional profession of skinning the already dead cow to provide leather to tanneries. Further, the Traders of livestock who carry valid licenses are also feeling threatened due to multiple attacks. Multiple self-declared Cow Protection groups are active on Social Networking websites wherein they spread rumors as well as hatred between different communities and castes. Hence, the petitioner argues that these groups need to be regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public order, morality and rule of law in the Country.
The prayers are:
- Issue a writ of Mandamusdirecting the Respondent State Governments to take immediate and necessary actions against the Cow Protection Groups indulging in violence;
- Issues a writ of mandamus directing the concerned State Government to provide adequate compensation to the victims of violence perpetrated by GauRakshaks and create necessary mechanism for rehabilitation of such victims;
- Issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ or direction to remove the violent and obscene content from the Social Media uploaded and hosted by these Cow Protection Groups;
- Issue a writ of certiorari or any other writ or direction to hold 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.