Ratio Decidendi : Tehseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India


In the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India it can be seen that there is an increase in the number of informal public executions and extrajudicial killings, also recognized as “Mob Lynching”. It was found that many cases when filed came out to be fake, filed with hatred among parties. With time it was resulting as a sense of insecurity among the people
Under social contract theory, it is the duty of the state to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. The continuous increase of cases was leading to a shadow over the justice system of the country. Many people who raised their voices against such incidents and held protests to prevent it all.

Background and Lawsuit of Tehseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India

Here, the petitioner was a public-spirited social activist and observed that in India, instances of mob violence have increased by 97 percent since 2014. It was also found that most of the people who are involved in this act were found to be from the age of 25-45 years i.e. they were young people. These young people were using modern technology such as 2G, 3G, 4G phones, the latest gadgets, or other social media methods to spread videos of beating somebody.

However, it was shocking to find that cow vigilantism is not just prevented by the governments whereas it was promoted by some State Governments by awarding them rewards, prices, id cards to become cow vigilantes etc. The petitioner filed a petition for direction and intervention for violence spread by cow vigilantes and protection groups under the Supreme Court of India.

The petitioner was not a victim of mob lynching but looking upon the unexpected growth of this act, to prevent the fundamental rights of the citizens, he thus filed a petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution commanding the States to take action against cow protection groups indulging violence.

Decision and Appeal

It was observed that in the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, there is no definition of lynching. Also, the youngsters who were involved in such acts had no fear of law. So, the petitioner along with some members thought that a law may be induced by the Parliament or Government so that this vigilante comes to an end. The petitioner thus prayed that Section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1976 and Section 15 of Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Prevention Act, 1964 must be held unconstitutional.

He further demanded relief for the protection of cow protection for which the media circulated by these groups must be removed from all the platforms of social media. He added that the main reason for such activities was the circulation of false news and information which was based on suspicion that victims were engaged in illegal activities of cattle trade etc. It was also argued that the Central Government had the power to intervene in the matter by using Article 256 and 257 of the Constitution for issuing directions to State Government.

The judgement was followed observing that the Right to Live with dignity is important. Also, no citizen can assault the human dignity of another, and if someone does so he must be presented before the Court. It was witnessed that the law always tries to let the citizens live freely and enjoy all their but still there are people who find ways to break the law and for those preventive measures are equally necessary.

And where, the preventive measures fail, in such a case there must be remedial and punitive measures to protect the rights of other citizens. The Supreme Court, while condemning the practice of cow vigilantism, lynching and mob violence, thus issued guidelines focusing on preventive, remedial and punitive measures to prevent such activity.


The case is found to be one of the landmark cases in the Indian Constitution. In the instant case, the court further recommended he Parliament to create a new law over the same looking after the safety and protection of people from the heinous crime and creating a sense of fear in the minds of crime doers. Further, as the court laid down several guidelines, it is highly appreciated for the critical incidents of mob lynching and passing guidelines to completely overhaul the enforcement of the law system. It has miscarried in every aspect of implementation and has caused pitiful shifting the manner in which this crime was handled before the judgement.

The guidelines specified were enacted for the benefit of the society conferring rights on the citizens and to regulate social behaviour in many a sphere, is required to be implemented by law enforcement agencies and citizens are duty-bound to follow the law treating it as sacred.

Related Legal Terms

  • Cow Vandalism- action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.
  • Lynching– (a group of people) kill (someone) for an alleged offence without a legal trial.
  • Petition– a formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to authority in respect of a particular cause.
  • Preventive– any reasonable measure was taken by any person after an incident has occurred to prevent or minimize that act.
  • Punitive– damages requested and/or awarded in a lawsuit when the defendant’s willful acts were malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or reckless. These damages are awarded both as a punishment and to set a public example.
  • Remedial– one which is made to supply defects or abridge some superfluities of the common law. The remedial statute is also applied to those acts which give a new remedy.
  • Unconstitutional– not in accordance with the political constitution or with procedural rules.

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