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Case Analysis: Tehseen Poonawalla v/s Union Of India

Unity in diversity is the motto that the largest democratic country in the world beholds. The constitution of India strengthens this approach of its people. Fundamental rights embodied in part III of the constitution of India guarantee civil rights to the citizens. It empowers the citizens of India with the freedom to exercise certain rights and it is the duty of the government to protect these rights of its citizen. Also, the government of India should be capable of protecting the minority section of its people from the illegal acts of the majority.

Laws are essential for the well functioning of the democracy. Laws are enacted with an aim to reduce crimes. These laws are to be followed by the people. No citizen is above the law. But for the people to strictly follow the law, the violators of the law need to be punished. It is important to know that this punishment should only be done by the administration. No private people, political parties or anyone other than the administration have the right to do so. The person who violated the law must be allowed a fair trial and the punishment should be done accordingly.

Over the recent years, there had been an increase in violence against people by mobs just because they were engaged in the trading of cows. Cow vigilante violence is the use of physical force in the name of cow protection. India had witnessed certain people taking law in their hands and lynching people in the name of cow protection by blaming them for cow slaughter. Such extra-judicial killing by the mobs mainly targeted the minority community and this heightened sense of insecurity in them. The very existence of mob lynching questions the authority of the state and shows a negative impact on the justice system.

In this landmark case of Tehseen Poonawalla vs. Union of India and others, the bench led by former CJI Deepak Mishra which comprising of A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ passed a judgement in order to tackle this situation present in the country. This judgement highly criticized the incidents of mob lynching and has caused a major shift in the manner in which this crime was handled before the passing of this judgement.

Background
As the number of incidents of cow vigilantism kept on increasing in the nation, three individuals, namely Martin Macvan, a Dalit right activist, Mohanbhai Hamir Bhai Bedva, an alleged victim of such violence and Tehseen Poonawalla, an activist lawyer filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India in August 2016 in order to take action against these cow vigilantes and provide justice to the victims of these mob lynching incidents. The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to issue notice to the central and state governments to take action against cow vigilantes.

The petitioners brought to the attention of the court the increasing incidents of cow vigilantism around the nation. They made the Supreme Court to notice these acts by mobs where private people violently punished others who they suspect of consuming beef. The petitioners filed this writ on the basis of increasing cow vigilantism all over the nation. In 2015, a mob of villagers attacked a 52-year-old Mohammed Akhlaq blaming him for stealing and slaughtering a calf. In the attack, Mohammed Akhlaq died and his son 22 years old, Danish were severely injured. Later the state government issued a report stating that Mohammed Akhlaq didnít store the beef for consumption.

  Another incident of cow vigilantism is seen when 7 members of a Dalit family were assaulted by a mob in the name of cow protection in Una, Gujarat. The most recent case of cow vigilantism is the case of Pehlu Khan. In this case, Pehlu Khan and his son were thrashed by the cow vigilantes in the name of cow protection in suspicions of cow smuggling. On the basis of these cases and many other similar cases, the petitioners asked the supreme court of India to intervene in this situation and take necessary actions.

6 states which include Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Karnataka enacted laws that protect such cow vigilantes for their illegal acts in the name of cow protection. These states enacted laws that prevent any legal action against persons for actions done in good faith.

For example the section 13 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act, 1976 gives that ďno suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall be instituted against any person for anything which is in good faith or intended to be done under this Act or rules made there underĒ. Such acts by these governments helped the cow vigilantes to hide behind them. They justified their lynching by these acts. The petitioners thus asked the supreme court of India to revoke these acts and ask the union government to take actions against cow vigilantes.

The petitioners were represented by Indira Jaising, Kapil Sibal, Colin Gonsalves and Sanjay Hegde while the defenders were represented by Tushar Mehta, Ranjit Kumar, Hemantika Wahi and Shreyas Jain.

No citizen is above the law. Every law breaker must be punished. But it is important to note that punishment should be done by the administration not the private citizen. No private people have the right to punish other no matter what. By stating the case of Wilson v. Garcia, the court held that every person equal before the law and no person shall take law to his own hand.

It is the duty of the state to protect its people. The government canít allow innocent people to be tortured by other private citizens by taking law in their hands. The state canít allow communal violence in the name of cow protection. In the case of Mohd. Haroon and others v. Union of India and others, the court held that it is the responsibility of the state administration to prevent communal violence.

India is a diverse nation in terms of culture and others. It is important for such a nation to be united in these diversities. If the nation splits itself in the name of cow protection, it will end up in the total demolition of the largest democratic country in the world. In the state of Karnataka and another v. Dr. Praveen Bhai Thogadia, the court stresses on the importance of the principle unity in diversity in a nation like India.

Case Analysis
Tehseen Poonawalla vs. Union of India represents one of the most important cases in modern day India. It deals with cow vigilantism, a present day noxious act. In this judgement by the supreme court bench led by former CJI Deepak Mishra cow vigilantism were tore down as a social evil and the court stressed on the duty of the state to prevent such acts. It is to be noted that the court not only stated against cow vigilantism but issued guidelines to prevent it. The court didnít stop with guidelines but included punitive measures and remedies against this act. In short the court condemned the act of cow vigilantism.

What the court faced in this case were an important social issue which affected the integrity of the nation. Killing of people by other private person in the name of cow protection not only deprive the fundamental rights of these people but also affects the face of the largest democratic country in the world. A nation must be able to protect its minority. More than that killing of its people in the name of an animal cannot be justified in any manner. Laws are set up with an aim to prevent crime.

But for this aim to be successful there is a need of discipline in the system. The law violators should of course be punished. But this punishment must be done in a specific way. The violator must be provided with a free trial and if found guilty must be punished by the administration. The punishment in no way could be done by a private citizen. No private person can punish another assuming that person to have committed a crime. Even if a person has committed a crime, another private person has no authority over him to punish. Instead he should inform the authority of the act that has taken place.

It has to be noted that the court did take an almost appropriate decision. The court not only blamed the act of cow vigilantism but also asked the state to do necessary acts to prevent it. Preventive measures were set up by the court for this.

The court was well aware of the current situation and provided guidelines to prevent cow vigilantism. The court agreed to the petitionersí argument that the cow vigilantes must be punished and punitive measures were introduced to do so. Remedial measures were put forward with an intention to make right to those who were the victims of such acts.

Although the court stated the cow vigilantism to be against the law and stressed on the necessity of abolishing such acts by introducing several guidelines, punitive measures, remedial measures and preventive measures it didnít address the constitutional validity of the immunity provisions of the cow vigilantes given in the laws enacted by several states in the country. Thus this judgement although almost appropriate canít be stated as a perfect one.

The court started its judgement by stating the importance of the existence of law. The court made it clear in the judgement that the administration of law is to be done by law enforcing agencies and not by any private person.  This was of course one of the issues related with cow vigilantism and the court did make sure to address it. The court further stressed this issue by involving cases related to it. This finding of the court which made it clear that no person can do illegal acts by disguising as protecting the law did in fact shred cow vigilantism into pieces.
The court was very much serious on preventing such acts that the court along with the preventive measures suggested a special task force to provide intelligence reports on those subjects who are likely to commit such acts. The court also insisted that the Director-General of Police and the Secretary of Home Department of the state to conduct meeting regarding the issue of cow vigilantism at least once a quarter with nodal officers and state police intelligence officers.

An effective method for the prevention of cow vigilantism was suggested by the petitionersí advocate Ms. Indira Jaising. Court agreed to this suggestion which was to assign police patrol in sensitive areas. The court also made a recommendation to the parliament to create a specialised offence for mob lynching and to provide appropriate punishment for the wrong doers.

It is to be noted that the court although directed these decisions it failed to give an adequate definition for mob lynching. This of course has to be seen as a failure from the part of the court as this omission leads to further complications regarding the prevention of such illegal acts.

The court also held in its judgement that it is the duty of the state to make sure that the private person doesnít take law in its hand. The court kept on stressing this point several times showing the importance. Although it should be noted that even though the court did say that state is bound to protect the innocent people from mob lynching the court didnít determine the constitutionality of the immunity given by several states to the cow vigilantes.

The court also said that it is the responsibility of the authority, which is the state to make sure that such acts of vigilantism doesnít take place. No one should have the mind set to take law in their own hands and punish other person even though that person has committed a crime. The court were clear on this point as the court in its judgement said that the court could without any fear state that such barbaric and unruly acts of mob lynching cannot be allowed to be rule of the day.

The court emphasized on the principle of unity in diversity. The court drew out several cases in which the unity in diversity mentality of the nation was highlighted. The court was of the view that, in a nation like India where unity is given immense importance such acts of cow vigilantism cannot be allowed. Mob lynching in the name of cow protection cannot be justified in any manner. India is a large nation with an even larger population.

Even in these conditions the citizens of the nation did had a kind of unity among them. Such a unity being damaged in the name of cow protection is one of worst thing that a democratic country could face. The court also made a significant point by highlighting that in India, right to life and liberty is considered to be paramount and an act of cow vigilantism cannot be allowed to violate it. No matter what kind of crime a person has committed, he or she deserves free trial and punishing that person by the private people is not acceptable.

The decision made by the court is of course reasonable. The court was able to clearly state the reason why such an illegal act of cow vigilantism must be stopped. This case is on a crime which is continually committed in the present. Thus, this judgement will change or cause a shift in the manner in which the crime of cow vigilantism will be handled. Also all the guidelines, punitive measures, remedial measures and preventive measures put forward by the supreme court of India should be enacted.

Judgement of this case can be said as an almost appropriate one. The guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India would of course help in reducing the illegal act of cow vigilantism. Similarly the preventive measures will also contribute to the prevention of such acts. Remedial measures so suggested by the Supreme Court will provide some relief to the victims or families of the victims of the act of cow vigilantism.

Punitive measures will help in case of punishing those who have committed the act of mob lynching in the name of cow protection. Even though court did put forward all these remedies and firmly stood against the act of cow vigilantism, it canít be said that court did everything it could against such act through this judgement.

It was stressed in the judgement that the state is responsible for preventing such crime of cow vigilantism and it should not allow any private people to punish other in any way. But it is to be noted that certain states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Karnataka did include an immunity provision in the animal protection acts of these states which in a way protected the cow vigilantes.

The Supreme Court of India did not address whether such an act were constitutionally valid or not. Although the court expressed the act of cow vigilantism as a crime and put forward guidelines and several preventive, punitive and remedial measures which it asked the state to act upon, the court didnít address the constitutional validity of a provision put forward by some states which protects these cow vigilantes. This does have a negative effect in preventing such illegal act of cow vigilantism. Also the missing of a clear definition for lynching has to be seen as a short coming of this judgement.

The guidelines, preventive measures, remedial measures and punitive measures which the court put forward will surely help in the prevention of cow vigilantism. The meeting which include the Direct General of Police, Secretary of Home Department of the State with nodal officers and state intelligence officers at least once a quarter will also help in the prevention.
This judgement does cause a change in how the crime of cow vigilantism has been dealt before.
 
Conclusion
ďIt may be true that the law cannot make the man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think thatís pretty important.Ē Ė Martin Luther King Jr.

Cow vigilantism is against the rule of law. The judgement of the case of Tahseen Poonawalla vs. Union of India has made quite a statement. It clearly declares cow vigilantism to be against the law and put forward measures and guidelines to prevent it. The Supreme Court of India stressed that it was the responsibility of the state to prevent such acts. It also highlighted that such acts damages the values held by the nation.

The constitution of the largest democratic nation in the world grants its citizens certain rights. Right to life and liberty is an important one among them. The act of cow vigilantism violates this right of the citizen. The judgement by the Supreme Court in this case asks for the complete prevention of such acts and demands total protection for the citizens of India. But it should also be noted that there are certain omissions from the part of the court regarding the constitutionality of the immunity provisions in the animal protection acts of several states of India. This judgement does have a great importance in the modern day India.
 
Written By: Abdul Noor - Government law college, Thrissur

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