The top court's directions came after a petition from Tushar Gandhi, calling for relief from cow vigilantism. The petition said under the Article 256 of the Constitution, the Centre has powers to issue directions to states on issues related to law and order.
Appearing on behalf of Mr Gandhi, senior advocate Indira Jaisingh said there had been more than 60 incidents across India where people had been assaulted and even eaten to death after allegations that they had killed cows or were in possession of beef.
She referred to an earlier statement of Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar that the Central government did not approve of people taking law into their hands in such instances.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta - who was representing the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Maharashtra - was asked to get instructions on whether the Centre can issue directions to states on the subject.
The court has asked all the states to appoint a senior police officer as Nodal officer in every district to ensure that vigilante groups don't take law into their hands. It has also directed the seniormost bureaucrats in every state to ensure highway petrolling to prevent such incidents.
The first incident of cow vigilantism was reported from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh in 2015, in which an elderly man, Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death after allegations that he had killed a cow. In July last year, four Dalit men were stripped, tied to a car and flogged in Gujarat.
As reports of similar incidents from other states piled up, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his union ministers issued strong statements against cow vigilantism. Condemning cow vigilantes, PM Modi said, "I have seen that some people are into crimes all night and wear the garb of gau rakshaks in the day".