The Apex Court, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) alleging a rise in cases of mob lynching and violence against the Muslim community, asked the Counsel for Petitioner not to be selective of any religion, caste and community while pointing out incidents of mob lynching.

The Court specifically asked the Petitioner whether it has highlighted the Udaipur Kanhaiya Lal murder case in the petition. Kanhaiya Lal a tailor in Udaipur of Rajasthan was beheaded, allegedly for a social media post in support of Nupur Sharma who had made alleged blasphemous remarks. The act was captured on video by the assailants, who also published a video issuing a threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Supreme Court today directed the States to file their responses to the PIL and listed the matter after vacations.

The Bench of Justice BR Gavai, Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Sandeep Mehta ordered, “Most of the States have not filed their Affidavits…It was expected of the States to at least respond to what action has been taken in such cases. We, therefore, grant six weeks time to all the states who have not yet filed replies to file their Counter, and also detail steps taken by them in such cases…Put up after vacations.”

During the hearing, Justice Aravind Kumar asked Advocate Nizam Pasha who appeared on behalf of the Petitioner, “Udaipur Incident in Rajasthan, I recollect there was one tailor, Kanhaiya Lal, have you highlighted that also in this petition?”

Advocate Pasha answered that they have not highlighted the incident in the present petition.

Justice Aravind Kumar remarked, “Make sure you have taken all the incidents into consideration. We want you to be sure that you are not selective.”

Senior Advocate Archana Pathak Dave on behalf of one of the Respondents said, “The Petition is about mob lynching of Muslims…the incident which Milords is referring to is an incident against a Hindu.”

Justice Gavai said, “Don’t base your arguments taking hints from what fell from the Court.”

"Petition particularly is saying that mob lynching of Muslims. Please see the synopsis", Senior Advocate Dave submitted.

Justice Mehta remarked, “That incident( Kanhaiya Lal's murder) was not mob lynching otherwise also. Let’s not go by religion or caste. It is only allegation of mob lynching, action taken....”

"I have not in my submission mentioned any religion or any state. If my learned friends want to bring (on record) some other incident, they are welcome to place additional material before my lord", Advocate Pasha submitted.

He also said that the Petitioner is not related to any religion and that it has a long history of filing public interest ligation before the Supreme Court.

"The affidavit is filed by whom", asked Justice Gavai.

"General Secretary Annie Raja", Pasha replied.

Senior Advocate Dave then pointed out that it is stated in the petition that the same is only in relation to alleged lynching of Muslims and that a PIL should not be restricted to a particular community. Pasha responded by saying that it is a statistical fact that there is a rise in incidents against a particular community.

Justice Gavai then told Senior Advocate Dave, “Any statement made by the Counsel should also be with some degree of restraint…these are judicial proceedings…if they have only noticed mob lynching on persons belonging to a particular community, is it worth taking this to such an extent…he will only bring to the notice of the Court the incidents which are in their knowledge…you tell us which are the incidents where Hindu people have been lynched, since you have raised that issue. Some degree of restraint from lawyers as well as Judges is expected.”

During the beginning of the arguments, Advocate Pasha submitted before the Court that the guidelines of Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India & Ors. were not followed and there is a rise in these cases, without any registration of FIRs.

He submitted that the Police simply deny the incidents and do not register FIRs. In one of the cases, he mentioned that the mob lynching was shown as a general scuffle in the FIRs due to alleged beef transportation. He further submitted that the FIRs were not registered for battery or assault but under the Cow protection laws against the victim.

Justice Gavai asked the Counsel for the state of Madhya Pradesh, “Why FIR was not registered? Why was FIR not registered against these 10-12 people who committed battery?... Are you trying to save someone?... That appears to be the case.”

Justice Sandeep Mehta asked “How could you register an FIR under the Cow Slaughter Act without there being any chemical report…Based on conjectures and surmises? What is the material with you?”

Advocate Nachiketa Joshi on behalf of the State of Madhya Pradesh submitted, “Usually the Chemical report comes at a later stage. At the time of the incident if an accused is found, and on the basis of complaint, an FIR is registered. Thereafter the material may be sent for chemical analysis.”

Advocate Pasha submitted that a similar incident happened in Haryana, he referred to the news reports of a video of a person who was beaten to death. He further mentioned that the FIR was filed for a car accident of a person carrying cow meat and against a person who survived for illegally transporting cow meat. He submitted that if the States simply deny the incident of mob lynching, the judgement in Tehseen S. Poonawalla's case would never be implemented.

He said, “Only Madhya Pradesh and Haryana responded to the notice.”

The Supreme Court in July 2023 issued a notice in the Public Interest Litigation seeking compliance with the 2018 judgment of the Apex Court in the matter of Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India & Ors., in light of the alleged alarming rise in cases of lynching and mob violence against the Muslim community.

The PIL said that despite clear guidelines and directions having been issued by the Apex Court in Tehseen S.Poonawalla, there has been an alarming rise in cases of lynching and mob violence against the Muslim community. Highlighting the recent incident of alleged lynching that took place on June 28, 2023, in district Saran of Bihar where a 55-year-old truck driver named Jaharuddin was allegedly lynched by a mob on suspicion of carrying beef, the PIL said that the Supreme Court recognized its constitutional duty to take a call to protect lives and human rights.

The National Federation of Indian Women further said that the rampant rise in the incidents of lynching and mob violence is the natural consequence of the lack of adequate action by the State despite the detailed preventive, punitive and remedial measures that have been put in place by the Court. The plea further read that the Court had held that the State has a “sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens from unruly elements and perpetrators of orchestrated lynching and vigilantism with utmost sincerity and true commitment”.

Cause Title: National Federation of Indian Women v. Union of India (W.P.(C) No. 719/2023)