The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Rajasthan government three weeks to file a response to the Alwar lynching, in which a man died on Monday after being beaten up by cow-protection vigilantes who thought he was smuggling cattle. The court has also asked the governments of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Gujarat to respond to rising incidents of cow protectionism, ANI reported.

The bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar was responding to a public interest litigation filed by Congress leader Shehzad Poonawalla who had sought a ban on cow vigilante groups and had said that the Centre was ineffective in controlling them. He had also accused the Gujarat, Maharashtra and Haryana governments of rewarding vigilantes, because of which such groups had “earned legitimacy”.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that formal notices had not been issued to these states, after which the apex court sought a response from them, PTI reported.

The Alwar lynching is the latest in a series of incidents revolving around perceived threats to the cow. While the most infamous of these was the Dadri lynching, in which a Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaque, was lynched by cow protectors for allegedly storing beef in his fridge, several others have been reported from Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states such as Jharkhand and Gujarat. Representatives of the government have either remained silent on the issue or denied them altogether. This has raised questions about the growing power that cow vigilante groups feel they have under the BJP government, which has put the protection of cows at the forefront of its national and state-level agendas.

Meanwhile, members of the Opposition demonstrated against the Alwar lynching in the Rajya Sabha on Friday morning, a day after Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi denied that any such incident had taken place in Rajasthan. The Opposition leaders trooped into the Well of the House and protested against Naqvi’s statement. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the BJP would have to pay a price if such incidents continued unchecked.

The Rajasthan government has sent a report on the incident to the Ministry of Home Affairs.