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Analysis of Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India

Authored by Harsh Mangal

Key Words: Mob Violence, Lynching, Religious Violence, Communal Hatred, Cow Vigilantes, Extrajudicial Killings

Name of the Case – Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India

Equivalent Citation – (2018) 9 SCC 501

Name of the Parties – Petitioner – Tehseen S. Poonawalla

Respondent – Union of India

Date of the Judgment – 17 July, 2018

Bench – Justice Deepak Mishra, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar


In India, we have seen a lot of cases of public killings or as the media calls it, ‘mob lynching’, especially in last four to five years. In recent years we have seen how activities like these take a form of religious hatred, and then plays an important role for Indian politicians who have made their political career only on religious propagandas. Recently we have witnessed the incident of Palghar Mob Lynching[1], in Maharashtra, in which three people were killed by the public on a mere perception of crime. The case Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India is an important case on the subject of mob lynching and extrajudicial killings in India.

Facts of the Case

After a series of incidents of mob lynching, in Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi and Dadri, a social activist Tehseen S. Poonawalla, filed a writ petition against the government of India and the respondent states under Article 32[2] of the Indian Constitution. This petition was filed for demanding more stringent laws and regulations against the spread of violence and hatred by cow vigilantes and extremist groups. This petition also intended to determine the responsibility of the state for such mob incidents.

This case further discussed –

1. Constitutional validity of certain sections of different acts which provide for cow protection.

2. Both center and state should think of some effective laws to curb unjust and violent actions of certain cow protection groups immediately.

3. What could be done to remove the content uploaded on social media by these groups which spreads hatred and could be a reason of violence?


The petitioners contended that no individual should indulge in an activity like mob lynching on the basis of a mere perception that a crime had taken place. Petitioners pointed that every activity related to mob violence must be checked. They also pointed that in recent times, activities related to mob violence and lynching has increased largely, mostly targeting the minority groups. It was also determined that one of the big reasons of these activities related to mob violence, is spread of fake news and false information about the victim that they were involved in some illegal activities of trading of cattle, cow slaughter, etc.

It was further contended, that it is the responsibility of the central government to issue directions to the state governments under Article 256[3] and 257[4] of the Constitution of India.

The respondents submitted, that appropriate legal action had been taken against the people involved in these activities, and that the state or the Union of India accepts that these are state matters and does not support any vigilantes.


The judgement was delivered by CJI Deepak Mishra, that no individual can take law into his/her own hands. Interim orders were issued for highway patrolling and for the appointment of Nodal officers. Court said that the mob lynching is a serious violation of Article 21[5] of the Indian Constitution and is not acceptable.

Certain guideline were issued to curb mob violence-

Preventive Measures: Nodal officers should be appointed by the state government, directions for the appointment and working were given. The central and the state government should try their best to stop the spread of false information, and should make people aware of the consequences of indulging in activities like these. It was also directed that police should file FIR under Section 153A[6] of IPC, and mobs should be dispersed under Section 129 of CrPc[7].

Punitive Measures: Departmental inquiry should be initiated against the officers who are negligent about their tasks or shows misconduct in the same, and this inquiry should reach to its conclusion within a time frame of six months.

Remedial Measures: Free legal aid should be provided to the victim or to the families affected, FIRs should be filed immediately and the proceedings should be in the fast track courts so that the procedure becomes less time consuming and more effective.

The issue of constitutional validity of certain sections of cow protection acts was not dealt by the court.


No matter what, a private citizen should not be allowed to take justice in his own hands. Incidents like mob lynching are a slap on the faces of legal fraternity and legal system of India. The Supreme Court laid down strict guidelines to deal with these problems, but still its implementation is the issue of concern for our government. We have seen that Anti-lynching bills have been passed by the government of Manipur and Rajasthan, but these bills are still waiting for the consent of the President[8]. Mob violence is an issue of serious concern, especially in last few years, when India witnessed communal and religious unrest. There should be no tolerance against such brutal and inhuman activities.

Foot Notes [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]