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Expressing concern at incidents of violence by Kanwariyas and other so-called religious groups, the Supreme Court on Friday, August 9, said action had to be taken against “whoever” instigating and committing violence, regardless of their religion

Vandalism and destruction of public property cannot be allowed, the Supreme Court said in strong observations about violent protests.

Agreeing that the court should lay down guidelines in this behalf instead of waiting for an amendment of the law, Chief Justice Dipak Misra noted that any such directions shall apply to all individuals or religious groups, which engages in such activities.

The observations came when a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar was hearing a petition filed by the Kodungalur Film Society against the damage to property during protests against the movie Padmaavat that was accused by Rajput groups of hurting their sentiments.

“Damage to public properties is a serious issue… This is a grave situation and this must stop. We will take action and won’t wait for amendments,” the court said.

The observations came after Attorney General KK Venugopal cited, among other instances, the recent spike in havoc unleashed by Kanwariyas.

Expressing deep concern over the failure of police machinery to stop acts of mob violence by outfits and fringe elements, especially in the context of recent attack by Kanwariyas in Delhi and UP, the Attorney General called for intervention by the Court to fix responsibility.

“There was the Maratha agitation in Maharashtra, the massive unrest across the country over the SC/ST judgment, the controversy over ‘Padmaavat’ where the nose of the actress was threatened to be cut off…what happened to the protesters? Nothing! Such episodes of such rioting transpire every other day. Are we going to allow this to happen?” Venugopal said.

“Judges might have seen media reports how Kanwariyas damaged cars, overturning it,” Venugopal added, referring to videos of Kanwars attacking vehicles including police cars.

“There has to be an FIR and responsibilities fixed,” he added.

Responding to this, Justice DY Chandrachud observed, “In Allahabad, Kanwarias blocked half the highway.”

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “You may burn your own house and be a hero but you cannot damage third party property.”

Advocate PV Dinesh, who was appearing for the Kodungalur Film Society, submitted that international media like BBC had given wide coverage to hooliganism unleashed by Karni Sena protesters to ban Padmavati, tarnishing India’s image in global community.

The petitioner argued that 2009 Supreme Court verdict on the subject was not being implemented.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar, reserved its judgment on Friday. The Court also directed AG and PV Dinesh to give their suggestions for guidelines, which could be incorporated in the judgment.

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