SC Agrees to Hear PIL Seeking Directions to States to Check Incidents of Lynching and Mob Violence Against Muslims

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a plea filed by a women’s organisation seeking directions to states to take immediate action in consonance with a 2018 verdict of the apex court to effectively deal with incidents of lynching and mob violence against Muslims by cow vigilantes.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala issued notice to the Centre and the DGPs of Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana seeking their responses to the plea.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), an organisation linked to the Communist Party of India, pleaded against referring the matter to high courts for adjudication.

“If that happens, then I will have to go to various high courts. But what will the victims get? Compensation of two lakhs after ten years. This is despite the 2018 verdict in Tehseen Poonawala case regarding mob violence. What remedy do I have, where will I go?” Sibal said.

He said the last time he had moved the apex court he was asked to approach the high courts concerned.

The bench then told him it was issuing notice to the parties concerned on the petition.

The plea, filed through advocate Sumita Hazarika and Rashmi Singh, sought urgent intervention of the apex court in view of the “alarming” rise in cases of lynching and mob violence targeting Muslims despite clear guidelines and directions issued by the top court in 2018 with regard to cow vigilantes.

“In view of the alarming rise in cases of lynching and mob violence against the Muslim community, the Petitioner is seeking a writ in the nature of mandamus to the concerned State authorities to take immediate action in terms of the findings and directions of this court in Tehseen Poonawalla (2018 verdict) so as to effectively contain and deal with the same,” the plea said.

The apex court had in 2018 issued a set of guidelines to curb cow vigilantism that targeted mostly Muslims.

The petition said urgent relief was being sought as states had failed to take necessary action against the perpetrators.

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“The positive duty of the State to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all individuals and the primary responsibility of the State to foster a secular, pluralistic and multiculturalist social order, have been recognized by this Court in several judgments including in Tehseen Poonawalla (2018 verdict). It is further submitted that this court recognized its own constitutional duty to take a call to protect lives and human rights,” the PIL said.

In its 2018 verdict, the top court had held the states have the principal obligation to see to it that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism of any perception, does not take place, and issued guidelines to be adopted by the authorities to deal with such incidents.

The PIL referred to several incidents of mob violence, the most recent being the killing of a 55-year-old truck driver named Jaharuddin on June 28, 2023 in Bihar’s Saran district on suspicion of carrying beef. It said the killing happened on the heels of two such incidents in Maharashtra’s Nashik.

The PIL sought direction to the Centre to provide a minimum uniform amount to the victims of such violence in addition to the compensation determined by the respective states after considering factors like the nature of bodily injury, psychological injury and loss of earning, including loss of employment opportunities, and legal and medical expenses.

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