In this article, Saurabh Kumar discusses the draft law of ‘Manav Suraksha Kanoon’ (MASUKA) – National Campaign Against Mob Lynching.

DEFINITION OF LYNCHING

According to the Oxford English dictionary, lynching refers to the act of killing/s done by a mob without any legal authority or process involved. In older times, such acts of lynching used to involve hanging a person to death. The mob usually killed someone accused of a wrongdoing based on their suspicion and without looking into available evidence. Lynching is considered as a major crime like murder or rape. The mob serving as “judge, jury and executioner” would carry out their spontaneous or pre-planned act of killing with absolute impunity and without any fear of law[1].

CURRENT STATUS AND STATISTICS

According to the website- “India Spend”- there have been about 28 deaths and 63 incidents of mob lynching and violence in India that have taken place 2010 to 2017, linked with so-called cow protection groups.  97 per cent of these acts have taken place post-May, 2014. However, in 21 per cent of the cases, police officials ended up persecuting the victim/survivor (s) by filing cases against them on the suspicion of having engaged in cow slaughter. In about 90 per cent of the cases, the victim/survivor(s) belonged to Muslim community. In the first six months of 2017, the attacks increased by 75 per cent in comparison to 2017. This has been the most violent year in terms of cow protection related mob killings since 2010[2].

Lynching has also been due to other reasons and instances. Many women continue to be killed in parts of India on the suspicion of witchcraft. About 2000 women have been killed by mobs between 2000-2012 in 12 states on the suspicion of having indulged in witchcraft practices. There have also been historical caste related killings in India, which have involved mob-killings. However, in most cases, such acts are not reported. These killings are meant to enforce caste hierarchy and practices. In 2002, for the first time, it was reported that about 5 Dalits were killed by a mob on the suspicion of having killed cattle. Such killings of people from lower castes on the suspicion of having engaged in cattle slaughter has increased in the following years. Mob killings are also seen during riots or as instigation for groups to indulge in rioting as seen in Muzzafarnagar and Kokrajhar riots[3].

Mob killings of late have reflected a sense of violence and prejudice against certain communities and castes. In the past few years, several of these killings have involved self-professed cow vigilante groups. These groups, have acted with utmost impunity and targeted mostly Muslims, based on rumours and biases. According to India Spend, at least 101 mob killings in the past few years have involved cow protection groups. Such groups have cited their cause of protecting cows, considered as a holy animal in Hindu scriptures and the recent banning of cattle slaughter by the Central government as their motivation behind targeting those who are accused of killing cattle. In 61 cases filed in the past 3 years, the perpetrators belonged to cow vigilante groups and most of these cases have taken place in states ruled by a right to centre party[4].

IMPORTANT CASE LAWS

The Indian judicial system has in the recent past attempted to counter mob killings and emphasise on the rule of law and values enshrined in the Indian constitution as seen in the cases below[5]

  • National Human Rights Commission v. State of Gujrat and others (2009) 6 SCC 342- 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) 4 SCC 516- 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. State of Kerala (2017) 5 SCC 255- 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”

CURRENT LAWS AGAINST LYNCHING

According to current laws,  provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) are applied to deal with instance of mob killing like Section 302 Section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing voluntary hurt) 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (unlawful assembly[6].

Similarly, under Section 223 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), it is allowed to try two or more accused for conducting a crime as a “same transaction”. However, it is to be noted that in spite of sections under IPC and CrPC being available to prosecute mob killings, legal experts have indicated the indeed for a specific law to counter mob killings in India[7].

Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA)

Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) is a law against mob lynching which has been proposed by National Campaign against Mob Lynching (NCAML)[8]. NACML is a committee of the following eminent individuals, who aim to come up with a dedicated anti-lynching legislation in India[9]

  • Sadaf Musharraf
  • Apoorvanand Jha- Hindi Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU)
  • Sanam Wazir
  • Rebecca John- eminent criminal lawyer
  • Manoj Jha- social worker and educationist
  • V Geetha- activist and writer with specialisation in Social History
  • Swara Bhaskar- Bollywood actress and media personality
  • Anil Chamadia- media personality, columnist and educationist
  • Nivedita Menon- Political Though Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU)
  • Sanjay Hegde- practising senior lawyer at the Supreme Court

MASUKA also contains measures to help rehabilitate victims and/or their families fiscally with compensation packages from the state government as a mandatory measure and optional collection of fines from accused after their successful conviction. Taking a cue from Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA) 2012 which came up with creation of special courts, the MASUKA law also calls for creation of special courts to fast track trials. MASUKA also calls for judicial probe to be conducted wherever lynching takes place and investigate into the possible role of the Station House Officer (SHO) and calls for action against SHO if found guilty of inaction or collaboration with the perpetrator. This will keep law enforcement officials in check and prompt necessary action from them. MASUKA also calls for a dedicated witness protection programme for witnesses in such cases to ensure their safety till the completion of trial[10].

NEED FOR MORE MEASURES

While the proposed MASUKA will fulfil the need for a specialised 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[11].

The Anti Communal Violence Bill has been stalled due to opposition from states who feel that it infringes on their constitutionally guaranteed powers. However, the bill should be revived as it ensured accountability from concerned authorities to counter communal riots accepts that riots are meant to subjugate and oppress minorities and created a protocol to ensure timely investigation of communal offences with related redressal. However, in order to carry out effective investigation, police officials should be free from any political pressure. As emphasised by the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh V Union of India, police reforms should have been initiated by the states in sync with the centre in order to grant police officials requisite autonomy. Without any proper investigation, the third aspect of the Anti-Communal Violence Bill cannot be implemented. Therefore, police reforms should also be initiated with further delay. Therefore, the framers of MASUKA should also include measures from the proposed Anti-Communal Violence Bill and also demand for police reforms in order to enforce and investigate with greater efficacy[12].

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. It includes denying anyone any social or religious rite, not allowing final rites, marriage, obstructing the right to receive medical aid or education, not allowing access to community hall or any facility meant for the general populace, not allowing a person to carry out any trade or profession amongst other rights etc.  If any person is found to be guilty of having engaged in acts of social ostracising, it will lead to a punishment of up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of one lakh rupees. This act takes into account different factors that cause caste based discrimination like forcing someone to wear certain attire and/or using abusive or stereotypical language to refer to someone[13].

CONCLUSION

It cannot be denied that lynching killings are a major menace. Based on caste, religious, historical and other bias, it has affected too many lives to be ignored. Over 2000 lives have been lost in the last decade to lynching. It affects the public’s confidence in the government and rule of law. Therefore, it should not be ignored anymore. Legal and administrative reforms are needed on an extensive scale to counter them. There is a need for a specialised law- on the lines of MASUKA complemented with reviving the Anti-Communal Violence Bill. There is also a need promote social inclusiveness via laws, as seen in The Maharashtra Protection of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016.There is also an urgent need to usher in police reforms. It will ensure better tackling of this menace in the future.

[1] Expertily, Why is India desperate for lynching laws , (June 27,2018), available at https://www.expertily.com/blog/lynching-laws-in-india (Last visited on June 20, 2018).

[2] The Hindu, It’s time to enact an anti-lynching law ,(August 4, 2017), available at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/its-time-to-enact-an-anti-lynching-law/article19421424.ece (Last visited on June 20, 2018).

[3] The newslaundry.com, Mob lynchings in India: A look at data and the story behind the numbers ,(July 4 , 2017), available at https://www.newslaundry.com/2017/07/04/mob-lynchings-in-india-a-look-at-data-and-the-story-behind-the-numbers (Last visited on June 20, 2018).

[4] Id.,3.

[5] LiveLaw.in, Government, Governance, Lynching And Rule Of Law ( July 5 ,2017), available at
http://www.livelaw.in/government-governance-lynching-rule-law/ (Last visited on June 20,2018).

[6] News 18, Civil Society Comes Together To Draft ‘Law’ Against Mob Lynching, (June 28, 2018), available at http://www.news18.com/news/india/civil-society-comes-together-to-draft-law-against-mob-lynching-1446177.html (Last visited on June 20,2018).

[7]SAMPATH, Supra note 2.

[8] SHRIVASTAVA, Supra note 1.

[9] Id., 8.

[10]iPleaders,  MASUKA – A draft bill by the collective National Campaign Against Mob Lynching to curb the menace of mob-lynching, (August 3, 2017), available at https://blog.ipleaders.in/masuka-draft-bill/ (Last visited on June 20,2018).

[11]SAMPATH, Supra note 2

[12] Id.,11.

[13] The Hindu, The boycott ban: on Maharashtra’s law against social boycott, (July 24,2017), available at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-boycott-ban/article19337662.ece (Last visited on June 12,2018).

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