The Supreme Court, like a large section of society, has clearly had enough of the velvet-glove treatment being accorded to politically-pampered goons masquerading as “cow vigilantes”, and has directed that “this must stop.”
While a three judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Mishra, did not formally reject the stand the Centre has been taking that law and order was a state subject, it asked what it was doing to curb the increasing menace, and even told the Additional Solicitor General to “take instructions” and respond to a plea that it invoke the provisions of Article 256 of the Constitution and issue the requisite directive to the states.
The Bench, which also comprised Justices AM Khanwilkar and Amitava Roy proceeded to direct all state governments to appoint a senior police officer as the nodal officer in each district to deal with instances of cow vigilantes unleashing violence.
“Planned action” was what their Lordships demanded.
The court went on to order that the nodal officers “shall ensure vigilante groups don’t take the law into their own hands” and directed the Chief Secretaries and DGPs to file status reports on the action taken.
It also called for effective patrolling of the highways along which the vigilantes have been active.
The court was dealing with a series of petitions demanding a crackdown on the vigilantes who have taken over 60 lives in recent months.
Though both the Prime Minister and home minister have condemned the lawlessness unleashed by the vigilantes, their activity has not been visibly reduced ~ hence the vacuum is being filled by the judiciary.
To recall, or list, the lynching perpetrated in the guise of protecting the cow would be pointless, for those who sincerely hold the cow sacred do not condone the recent violence.
The attacks are little short of a bid to terrorise minority communities, which explains why there has been such tepid police action ~ the goons claim political patronage.
Yet their unabashed violence is also facilitated by the highly controversial order on the sale and transfer of cattle ~ which has been put on hold by the courts.
The environment minister has repeatedly stated that a revised order will be issued, shortcomings addressed etc, but no specific remedies have been announced.
The recent order of the apex court on issues of privacy would, in effect, also be diluted by the vigilantes running amuck.
The orders ando bservations of the Supreme Court on Wednesday may not amount to a formal indictment of the Centre, but they do put Raisina Hill on the spot.
For a failure to compel/persuade the states into requisite action would imply a breaking down of the Constitutional machinery ~ nothing short of that.
Had the Centre been more active, conditions would not have necessitated judicial intervention.