Even as bureaucratic lethargy hinders the Supreme Court directive to enact legislation to curb cow-vigilantes, it is now revealed that the attack on JNU student-activist Umar Khalid was conducted by goons wanting to give the nation an “Independence Day” gift ~ only their pistol jammed.

Their audacity can well be attributed to the failure of the political leadership to move beyond lip-service in condemning those who have made it their unassigned business to protect cows.

Only a day or two ago there was another assault in Muzaffarnagar (western UP), while the apex court came down heavily on the Rajasthan government in the killing of Rakbat Khan in Alwar. It adds up to a criminally calculated evasion of a judicial directive: a negation of a key facet of the Constitution.

The home ministry would be guilty of dereliction of duty if it did not take serious note of the confession to the police by the men picked up for the abortive attempt on the life of the JNU activist.

True that JNU is the red rag to the Hindutva bull, Rajnath Singh included, but those who tried to take Umar Khalid’s life were not students with ideological differences; they have also been involved with “cow protection” in the past.

The political leadership in North Block may think its role is limited to issuing circulars, but now questions must arise if its senior bureaucrats are compromised too? How the top court deals with the Alwar affair would definitely set a benchmark, and the Central government would find it difficult to evade remedial action ~ unless the intention is to de-fang a generally vibrant judicial system.

Union ministers are consistently complaining about judicial over-reach, accuse the courts of transgressing established divisions of authority and encroaching upon the domain of the executive and legislature. There is only technical truth to that.

The vast majority of such actions by the Supreme Court and High Courts came in the wake of inaction of government(s); people are increasingly looking to the courts to fill an administrative vacuum. Be it the unwarranted felling of air-purifying trees, illegal commercialisation of land earmarked for residential purposes, clearing traffic bottlenecks and even restraining trigger-happy security force personnel and third-degree specialists in the police.

When a question on the burial site of the stalwart of Tamil politics had to be raised before the Madras High Court it was testimony to the political putrefaction of the administration ~ the current yardstick is no longer right or wrong, but what impact the move would make at the EVM.

When administrations thus deny common citizens their basics, it is no surprise that “vigilantes” think of their despicable brand of Independence Day celebration. What did they expect? To be hailed as heroes? And to be garlanded by ministers? The best efforts at nation-building would be hobbled by such distractions and every person involved in governance must realise this truth.