The Gujarat High Court today issued notice to the state on a PIL seeking direction to the government to ensure systemic disposal of cow carcasses and pro-active action against 'gau rakshaks' to avoid incidents like the thrashing of Dalits at Una.
A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi issued notice to the state government, additional chief secretary of Home department, and principal secretary of the panchayats, rural housing and rural development department.
The matter will now come up for hearing on 8 September. The PIL, filed by Ratna Vora, head of NGO Ambedkar Karwan that works for Dalits and other depressed sections of society, claimed in her petition that no circular or guideline has been issued by the state government to village panchayats to ensure systemic disposal of dead animals under relevant sections of Gujarat Panchayats Act-1993.
Vora also sought immediate action from the state Home department to stop "unlawful activities done by hooligans in the name of gau raksha". The PIL comes in the backdrop of an incident involving 'gau rakshaks' or cow vigilantes thrashing four Dalits from Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district for skinning a dead cow last month.
The video of the incident caused widespread protests by Dalit groups and several leaders like Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and AAP Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the village to meet the victims.
"The Gujarat Animal Preservation Act, 1954, amended hurriedly in 2011 provides protection to the cows that they can never be slaughtered, but failed to provide any direction to the administration as to what should be done to the dead cows," the PIL states.
"As per section 99 of the Gujarat Panchayats Act, 1993, such Panchayat is duty bound to make provisions for the matters specified in schedule 1 wherein clause 1(g) deals regarding the systematic disposal of carcasses," it states.
However, it said, "The panchayat, rural housing and rural development department has not directed the village panchayats to implement the law." The PIL states that Dalits are becoming "easy prey at the hands of Hindutva organisations", and hence sought a court direction to the state Home department to immediately issue circulars to all the police departments and officers to take pro-active action against any activities of the hooligans under the pretext of "gau raksha".
"In 2011, government amended the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act-1954, for protection of an animal (cow) but failed to make any protection to Dalit and Muslim community who are traditionally engaged in meat profession," it further states.