The Supreme Court turned down a request to list for urgent hearing a contempt application against states that have failed to implement the court’s direction to control mob lynchings. According to the Oxford English dictionary, mob lynchings refers to the act of killing/s done by a mob without any legal authority or process involved. The word ‘lynch’ is said to have originated during the American Revolution, phrased as ‘Lynch Law’ which is a punishment without trial.
Current Status and Statistics
- According to the IndiaSpend, there have been about 129 incidents of mob lynchings in India since 2012 leading to about 47 deaths.
- 56% of the victims have been Muslims and about 9?lits. In 2018, 100% of victims attacked in these hate crimes were Muslim.
- In more than 28 of 85 incidents mobs or groups of people were spurred into violence on the mere suspicion of cow slaughter.
- Impunity - A mob lynchings has no face, thus it becomes difficult to fix accountability and bring perpetrators to book. When an individual acts, there is a sense of responsibility, but in a mob, there is a dispersion of responsibility and guilt.
- Growing Xenophobia - Sub-national or regional xenophobia has led to many mob lynchings wherein victims were tourists or strangers to a particular place in suspicion of child-lifters & abusers.
- Weak & Delayed Justice Delivery - Had the justice delivery system in our country been efficient and effective people seeking justice would not have had taken law into their own hands to. For example, several rapes accused have been lynched in the past e.g. in Himachal Pradesh & Assam.
- Poor Law & Order - The inability to enforce law and order has a direct manifestation in the form of mob violence. This also results in low conviction rates thereby incentivizing such acts further.
- Fake & Hate News - With an increased role & penetration of social media, fake and hate news have a direct impact on the psyche of an individual especially when the rate of effective literacy is low. According to the IndiaSpend report, 77% of mob attacks are attributed to fake news.
- Prejudice against certain communities and castes - There has been an unprecedented surge in the number of lynching and hate crimes in cow-related cases and most of the victims are from the Muslim and Dalit communities.
- Political Instigation - Behind the present fraught conditions is the deterioration in the caliber of some politicians whose only objective is to remain in power even if it means bending the administrative system for their partisan advantage by undermining the autonomy and professionalism of the various services, especially the police.
- Emerging Individualism - With the rise in individualism owing to ambitions based lifestyles, there has been an erosion of associational life and its benefits considered indispensable for democratic life.
- Rising Superstitions - About 2000 women have been killed by mobs between 2000-2012 in 12 states on the suspicion of having indulged in witchcraft practices.
Impacts Once set off for any reason, the mob lynchings are extremely difficult to control.
Important Judgments The Indian judicial system has in the recent past attempted to counter mob killings and emphasize the rule of law and values enshrined in the Indian constitution as seen in the cases below -
- National Human Rights Commission v. State of Gujrat and others (2009) - The Supreme Court 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 which as noted above is governed by the rule of law.”
- Krishna Sradha v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2017) - The Supreme court said that- “A right is conferred on a person by the rule of law and if he seeks a remedy through the process meant for establishing the rule of law and it is denied to him, it would never subserve the cause of real justice.”
- Cardamom Marketing Corporation v. the State of Kerala (2017) - The Supreme Court said that- “The Rule of Law reflects a man’s sense of order and justice. There can be no Government without order; there can be no order without law”.
- SC in 2018 condemned case of mob-lynching and called the incidents "horrendous acts of mobocracy" which cannot be allowed to become a new norm. It issued a slew of directions to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures" to deal with offenses like mob violence and cow vigilantism.
- The states shall designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of police superintendent as nodal officer in each district.
- These officers will set up a task force to be assisted by one DSP-rank officer for taking measures to prevent 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 director-general of police or the home department secretary shall hold regular review meetings (at least once a quarter) with all the nodal officers and state police intelligence heads.
- All police officers will have to ensure the dispersal of mobs that have a tendency to cause violence or lynch in the garb of vigilantism or otherwise.
- The Union home department must work in coordination with the state governments to sensitize law-enforcement agencies and by involving all stakeholders to identify the measures for the prevention of mob violence and lynching on the grounds of caste or community
- The central and state governments should broadcast on media platforms, that lynching and mob violence will invite serious consequences.
- It will be the duty of the Centre and the states to curb the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on social media platforms.
- The police shall register FIRs under Section 153A of the IPC (promoting enmity among people) and/or other relevant provisions against the perpetrators.
- The Centre shall issue appropriate directions to the states on the gravity of the situation and the measures to be taken.
- Despite the preventive measures taken by the state police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR.
- It shall be the duty of the station house officer to immediately intimate the nodal officer in the district who shall, in turn, ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victim(s).
- The investigation in such offenses shall be personally monitored by the nodal officer, who shall be duty-bound to ensure that the investigation is carried out effectively and the charge sheet filed within the statutory period
- The states shall prepare a scheme to compensate for mob lynchings and mob violence victims.
- The cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated courts in each district. Such courts shall try cases on a day-to-day basis. The trial should preferably be concluded within six months.
- The trial court must ordinarily award the maximum sentence under the provisions of the IPC
- The courts may, on application by a witness or by the public prosecutor, take such measures as it deems fit, for protection and for concealing the identity and address of the witness.
- The victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased shall be given timely notice of court proceedings.
- The victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased shall receive free legal aid if he or she so chooses.
- Departmental action must be taken against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators. Such failure will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken. The action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months.
- Effective implementation of SC 2018 guidelines along with the enactment of the Anti-Communal Violence Bill on the lines of MASUKA.
- Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) is a law against mob lynching which has been proposed by National Campaign against Mob Lynching (NCAML). It defines, for the first time in Indian legal history, the terms ‘lynching’, ‘mob’ and ‘victim’ of mob lynching. Other proposals;
- Measures to help rehabilitate victims and/or their families fiscally with compensation packages from the state government.
- Creation of special courts to fast track trials.
- Judicial probe to be conducted wherever lynching takes place and investigate the possible role of the Station House Officer (SHO).
- Action against officials if found guilty of inaction or collaboration with the perpetrator.
- Dedicated witness protection program for witnesses in such cases to ensure their safety till the completion of a trial
- While the proposed MASUKA will fulfill the need for a specialized law to counter mob lynching, it has to be complemented with a multi-pronged approach with the help of laws like the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, or the Anti-Communal Violence Bill and ushering in long-pending police reforms.
- Recommendations of the Rajiv Gauba committee must be made public for effective deliberations and for its incorporation into the law to be enacted.
- Maintenance of proper data - At present, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain specific data with respect to lynching incidents in the country.
- Include making it mandatory that WhatsApp forwards and memes contain originator details, and that a “fact check this” option be inserted at the user end to allow a message to be decrypted.
- A database of ‘reported hashes’ is created, which all users could download, and which would automatically rate messages on ‘trust’.
- Police’ and ‘Public Order' are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. State Governments, therefore, must promptly act upon the complaints of kidnapping or abduction of children in a manner that instills a sense of confidence in the affected family or locality that action as per law would be and is taken to bring the guilty to book.
- Police reforms should be initiated without any further delay through the incorporation of SC guidelines in Prakash Singh V Union of India, 2006.
- There is a provision in the law that enables the government to issue orders to remove objectionable content, block websites, etc. Law enforcement agencies should be able to step up the action and monitor more proactively.
- There is also a need to promote social inclusiveness via laws, as seen in The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016. It helps in outlawing any act that may amount to boycotting any person or community socially.
- Political condemnation of these acts from the important leaders is essential to send out a message to discourage the mob.
- Community Sensitisation and awareness through multi-media campaigns along with counter-information campaigns to check fear-mongering and fake news.
- Strengthening civil society organizations to nurture solidarity and confidence among the diverse groups.
- Re-orientation of values and traditional principles towards enhancing compassion, empathy, and fraternity among people.
- A targeted region-specific approach is need of the hour as reasons for such acts vary widely across space.
- Encourage critical thinking and critical inquiry for questioning the information they receive, a very important part of countering fake news about the mob lynchings.