By Nidhi Jitendra Patel
Lynching has increased in number and ferociousness during last decade but there has been no effort on part of the State to curb this menace for Indian society. Mob Lynching is blatant disrespect to the Rule of Law and to the dignified values of the constitution itself. Lynching by boisterous mobs and vicious violence ascending from false instigation cannot be permitted to be a new normal. The preamble of the Constitution envisages for Justice, Liberty and Equality secured to all. The state machinery has failed in its duty to provide protection to all citizens.
The term Mob Lynching has been used indiscriminately in India since last few years. This term is not new for the world. It was coined in late 18th century by Virginian Judge, Charles Lynch, who presided over an irregular court to punish British loyalist during American Revolutionary War. Lynching has gradually increased in number and barbarousness in India during the last decade. Merriam Webster describes lynching as “to put to death by mob action without legal approval or permission”. An agitated populace inflicts violence on a person or a group of persons upon taking law into their hands without any recourse taken under the legal system. There is no legislation in India which explicitly defines ‘mob lynching’ to its utmost meaning.
Most often, innocent people were killed on mere basis of suspicious or fake information received from social media. Mob violence blatantly flouts the pivotal principles of Justice, Liberty, Equality and the Rule of law, enshrined under the Indian Constitution. There are some instances of mob lynching that shook India like the Palghar incident which led to the barbaric killing of two Hindu sadhus in Maharashtra resulting in their death believing them to be child kidnappers, three Muslim youths were lynched in Durgapur on a mere suspicion of cow theft in 2017 and many more cases has been evident on cow vigilantism.
CAUSES OF MOB LYNCHING
Mob lynching arises due to social, technological and political causes. The social causes are ascribable to prejudice on various identities like caste, class, gender, race, religion etc. These are all sturdy ideological forces which are present in our society that hamper unification to form ‘one nation’. People of varied culture, different ethnic group and professing different religions co-exist in India. Sometimes, it often leads to intolerance towards each other and differences in their beliefs. People easily believe in false information and fake news about child lifters, allegation of beef consumption, accused of rape and many more crimes that result in killing of innocent people. The sporadic spread of fake news like spread of wild fire in the forest, on various social media platforms result in mob lynching. Ineffective investigation and lack of trust in the police officials can be consider as a prompting factor for people to take law into their own hands. The humanity and moral values diminish every time when an unruly mob kills an innocent life in the society.
Lack of digital literacy, no proper data regulation law, no efficient rules and regulations to punish people who spread fake news and failure on part of state machinery to proficiently handle the fake news are some of the technological causes which leads to dysfunctional. The political parties mould these hate crimes in their social and political propaganda for their own benefits. The political parties have not taken any appropriate measures to eradicate this menace of mob lynching. Justice Kurian Joseph, retired Supreme Court judge, once said that “Silence of the lawmen do more damage to society than the violence of lawless men”.
INDIAN SCENARIO ON MOB LYNCHING
Mr. Shashi Tharoor and Advocate KTS Tulsi introduced private member bills in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, to formulate special laws for mob lynching. Sumitra Mahajan, then speaker of Lok Sabha, declined these bills on the basis that the ‘Law and Order’ falls under the ambit of the State Government. The Tehseen Poonawala, political activist, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking the court to formulate guidelines for prevention of mob lynching. In case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has condemned mob violence incidents across the country and urged parliament to enact a law to deal with this crime that impends Rule of Law and the country’s social fabric. The apex court has further laid down certain guidelines and issued measures which are preventive, remedial and punitive in nature. The preventive measures are that the state government (“SG”) shall designate a senior police officer ranked Superintendent of Police as Nodal Officer assisted by one DSP officer in each district for taking timely measures to prevent incidents of mob lynching. They shall acquire intelligence report about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or probably involved in spreading fake news or hate speeches. The SG shall identify districts, sub-division and villages where incident of mob lynching were reported in the past five years. The officer in charge of identified areas, where it is more likely to happen, should be extra cautious. It is a duty of Nodal Officer to hold a regular meeting, at least once a month, with the local intelligence units in the district. The Nodal officer shall inform the Director General of Police (DGP) on any steps taken for prevention of mob lynching in inter-districts. Every police officer shall disperse the mob by exercising his power under Section 129 of CrPC. The Central and State Government should broadcast on the radio, television, official websites of home department and other media platforms that mob violence will lead to severe punishment under the law. Police are obliged to register FIR against those people who are responsible for writing or forwarding instigating messages, video and other material which ignites violence amongst the people on any social media platform. The government should ensure that family members of the victim family are not further harassed. Every State government should institute a mob violence victim compensation scheme. The matter with respect to mob violence should be tried by designated ‘fast track courts’ constituted in each district. The trial court must award maximum sentence upon conviction of the accused person on mob violence.
CURRENT LAW AGAINST MOB LYNCHING
There are some provisions under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for punishment of mob violence accused. The accused shall be convicted under Section 302 for Murder, Section 304 for Culpable Homicide, Section 307 for attempt to murder, Section 323 & 325 for Hurt or Grievous Hurt along with common intention under Section 34, Section 141 & 149 for Unlawful Assembly, Section 147 & 148 for Rioting and Section 120-B for Criminal Conspiracy. The SC in Tehseen Case has directed the police officials to charge the accused under Section 153A of IPC for promoting enmity between different groups and creating violence that disrupt harmony in the society or under section 505 of IPC for making statements that conduces public mischief.
Section 223 of CrPC deals with prosecution of the accused for an offence committed in the course of same transaction or accused of abetment, or abetment to commit, such offence or person accused of different offences committed in the course of same transaction etc. may be charged jointly by the court.
NEED OF THE HOUR FOR LEGISLATION
There are various provisions under different legislation for punishing mob lynching but they are not sufficient to control this menace from spreading. Hence, the government should enact a special law for punishing the accused of their horrendous act. Furthermore, the law should embrace stringent penal action against doctors who were negligent in giving providing proper medical treatment to the victims. Under the Victim Compensation Scheme, the amount should be recovered from the perpetrators of the crime.
The public has also taken some steps to prevent this crime like started campaign “Not in my Name” in 2017 to prevent this crime from further perpetrating in India. “Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA)” is a law against mob lynching that has been drafted by National Campaign against Mob Lynching (NCAML) committee in 2017. The NCAML committee pressurized the government to bring stricter law for mob lynching, suggested for punitive punishment such as life imprisonment for the criminals and make it a non-bailable offence. Fewer states in India like Manipur, Rajasthan and West Bengal have passed an anti-lynching law for curbing this heinous crime.
It is the duty of state to ensure that law and order machinery functions proficiently in sustaining peace and harmony in the society to preserve secular ethos and pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by the Rule of law. The state should positively act to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises made to its citizen by constitution. The “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become the new normal.
The Supreme Court in case of National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Gujarat said that “Communal harmony is the hallmark of a democracy. The Constitution of India, in its Preamble refers to secularism. Religious fanatics are no better than terrorists who kill innocent for no rhyme or reason in a society that is governed by the rule of law”.
1. “lynch,” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lynch. Accessed on 25 August, 2020. 2‘Mob lynching: 7 instances which shook India’ (DNA India, 21 July 2018 ) <https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-mob-lynching-7-instances-which-shook-india-2639925> accessed 25 August 2020.
3 Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India and Ors, (2018) 9 SCC 501.
4 The Criminal Procedure Code, Section 223.
5‘India's #NotInMyName Campaign Resonates Elsewhere Too’ (The wire, 28 June 2017) < https://thewire.in/government/india-not-in-my-name-campaign-resonates-elsewhere> accessed 25 August 2020.
6 Saurabh Kumar, ‘Draft law of Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) – National Campaign against Mob lynching’ (30 June 2018) < https://blog.ipleaders.in/draft-law-manav-suraksha-kanoon-masuka-national-campaign-mob-lynching/> accessed 25 August 2020.
7 Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India and Ors, (2018) 9 SCC 501.
8 National Human Rights Commission vs. State of Gujarat (2009) 6 SCC 342.