States Under Obligation to Pay Compensation to Victims of Cow Vigilantism, Says SC

The apex court has also asked states to submit compliance reports based on its previous order on appointing district nodal officers to curb cow-related mob violence.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Saturday (September 22) asked the chief Secretaries of 22 states to file compliance reports in pursuance of its order on September 6 laying down a mechanism to sternly deal with cow vigilante groups, saying “nobody can wash off their hands”.

The bench added that states were under an obligation to pay compensation to victims of vigilante action, without the need for any judicial order. “We do not have to say that. All states are under an obligation to compensate victims of cow vigilante violence. At the same time, law and order has to have primacy and anyone violating it must be dealt with sternly,” Indian Express quoted the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra as saying. The court was hearing a petition filed by activist Tushar Gandhi and Congress leader Tehseen S. Poonawalla, asking that states be told to check cow vigilantism.

The top court had on September 6 directed all 29 states and seven union territories to take steps to stop violence in the name of cow protection and asked them to appoint a senior police officer as the nodal officer in every district within a week to check such vigilante groups.

The bench has now said, “Let compliance reports be filed…nobody can wash off their hands (from their duty). We will give directions to all the states.”

The bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, was informed during the brief hearing that five states – Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat – have already filed their compliance affidavits and Bihar and Maharashtra would be filing it during the day.

It then asked the counsel for the remaining 22 states to file compliance reports by October 13 and fixed PILs, including one filed by Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, on the issue for hearing on October 31.

At the outset, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Gandhi, said the central government should be directed to frame a national policy on preventing incidents of cow vigilantism. She also said there were several judgements which make mandatory the award of compensation to the victims of such crimes, but unfortunately, the money was not being paid.

Jaising then raised the issue of Junaid Khan, who was killed by a group of fellow passengers on a train while returning to his Ballabhgarh home with his brothers after Eid shopping in Delhi on June 23. His family members have not been paid any compensation, Jaising said, and now, his father is ill and undergoing treatment at a hospital in Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

“I am asking for the formulation of a scheme on compensation,” she said.

“Don’t mix up the issues,” the bench said.

Earlier, the apex court had passed a slew of directions to stop violence in the name of cow protection and asked the states to appoint a senior police officer as nodal officer in every district to act promptly to check cow vigilantes from behaving like they are “law unto themselves”.

It had asked the states to form a dedicated task force in every district to stop such acts and directed their chief secretaries to file a status report giving details of actions taken to prevent incidents of cow vigilantism.

The court had also asked the states to ensure highway patrolling after it was pointed out that such incidents took place on highways on the pretext that vehicles are carrying beef.

(With PTI inputs)