The glaring absence of figures relating to incidents of lynching in the recently released National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) database hints at a deliberate attempt to keep the figures under wraps.
- As per the other sources, there have been 266 cases of lynching since 2014 and this continues to show an upward trend, casting an adverse impression about the role of the police in arresting such trends.
- The 2017 Crime in India report, released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), saw a 30% jump in cases recorded as “offenses against the State.”
The National Crime Records Bureau
- It is an Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code and Special and Local Laws.
- NCRB is headquartered in New Delhi and is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Key features of the report:
- 88 new categories of crime:
- The NCRB report, published after a delay of two years, included 88 new categories including sexual harassment of women at the workplace/public transport, offences relating to elections, obscene acts at public places, circulation of fake news, chit funds, cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Mental Health Act, noise pollution and defacement of public property.
- A new category called “anti-national elements” has been added which includes details of “jihadi terrorists, Left Wing Extremism and North East insurgents.”
- For the first time, “cyberstalking and bullying of women” has been included in the report.
- Cybercrimes: More than 21,000 incidents of cybercrimes were reported in 2017, a jump from the 12,317 such cases reported in the previous year. Of these, cybercrimes reported against women stood at 4,242.
- Sedition: While 51 cases of sedition were reported in 2017, there were 24 cases related to imputation and assertions prejudicial to national integration.
- The Official Secrets Act: 18 cases were reported and 901 cases were registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Why data on lynching was not released? MHA says that data on lynching unreliable:
- The Union Home Ministry said that data received by the NCRB on certain crimes like lynching and attacks on journalists were “unreliable and their definitions are also prone to misinterpretation.
- The non-disclosure of lynching data hints at a deliberate attempt to keep the figures under wraps.
What is meant by Lynching?
- Any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting (encouraging) such act/acts thereof, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or any other related grounds.
- It excluded solitary hate crimes and for the provisions to apply, it requires that these hate crimes are undertaken by the mobs, defined as a group of two or more individuals, assembled with a common intention of lynching.
Supreme Court Guidelines
- The state governments shall designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
- The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions, and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
- The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence-related issues.
- It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, which, in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.
- Central and the state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites that lynching and mob violence shall invite serious consequence.
- Curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms. Register FIR under relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate such messages.
- Ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victims.
- State governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme.
- Cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated court/fast track courts earmarked for that purpose in each district. The trial shall preferably be concluded within six months.
- To set a stern example in cases of mob violence and lynching, the trial court must ordinarily award maximum sentence upon conviction of the accused person.
- If it is found that a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to fulfill his duty, it will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence.
Features of Anti-lynching laws in India:
- While Manipur passed an anti-lynching law last November, Rajasthan and West Bengal have passed such legislation more recently.
- The Uttar Pradesh Law Commission (UPLC) recommended a draft anti-lynching law.
- The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has stressed the need to take stringent action against officials for dereliction of their duties. The district magistrate and police officers can be imprisoned for a term extending up to three years with a fine up to Rs 5000.
- Dereliction also includes the failure to provide protection to a victim of lynching; failure to act upon apprehended lynching; and refusing to record any information relating to the commission of lynching.
- This crime carries the penalty of one to three years and a fine.
- The UPLC goes further to include also a new crime of dereliction of duty by District Magistrates.
- Various laws state that a victim shall have the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any court proceeding and shall be entitled to be heard at any proceeding.
- Explicitly require the Superintendent of Police to inform the victim in writing of the progress in the investigation.
- The victim shall have the right to receive a copy of any statement of the witness recorded during investigation or inquiry and a copy of all statements and documents.
- Where the UPLC goes further than the Manipur statute is in laying down the right to compensation.
- It places the duty squarely on the Chief Secretary to provide compensation to victims of lynching within 30 days of the incident.
- The State government must give due regard to bodily, psychological and material injuries and loss of earnings, including loss of opportunity of employment and education, expenses incurred on account of legal and medical assistance in calculating compensation.
- It also lays down a floor of Rs. 25 lakh in case lynching causes death.
Concerns: Biased state govts.
- Today, the Hate Crimes attract Section 153 A of IPC. It is related to fostering enmity between the people on the basis of religion, race, language, etc.
- But, registering this crime requires prior permission of the State Government, but most State Governments use this power to shield perpetrators.
Impunity characterizes lynching in India:
- To counter this, both the Manipur statute and the UPLC draft create a new crime of dereliction of duty by police officials, holding a police officer guilty of this crime if he or she “omits to exercise the lawful authority vested in them under law, without reasonable cause, and thereby fails to prevent lynching”.
The superintendence and control of the police:
- As per the police laws, both the Central and State police forces come under the superintendence and control of political executives.
- It seems that the police force has become a puppet in the hands of its political masters.
- There is no mechanism for registering a complaint against erring police officials.
- Both the Second Administrative Reform Commission and the Supreme Court have accepted the need for having an independent complaint authority to inquire into the cases of police misconduct.
- Monitoring fake news: Arresting those who originate and forward news that could trigger mob violence or communal unrest should be done.
- More intelligence: The police has to spread its intelligence dragnet to such an extent that any plan to upset the law and order machinery is reported to the control room within minutes.
- Communal sensitive districts: These districts ought to have additional armed and well-equipped companies to rush to any spot within minutes to handle frenzied mobs.
- Prompt investigations: Investigation, arrests, and trial by fast track courts could go a long way in curbing such incidents.
- Witness protection: In the interest of the victims and the witnesses, lynching must be made a non-bailable offense.
- Action against dereliction: Policemen who watch as mute spectators should also be tried in the same manner as the culprits. An independent complaint authority to inquire into the cases of police misconduct should be established.
- We need more laws on the lines of the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission’s draft anti-lynching law. But these will be futile unless they are strictly enforced on the ground.
- Political patronage to fundamentalist elements will deter the policemen from doing their duty. So there is a need for police reforms as well.