This article is written by Saswata Tewari from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies Dehradun. This article does a case analysis of Tehseen S Poonawala vs UOI and on the mob lynching cases which was observed in this case.
According to the Reuters report a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred in India between the years 2010 and the mid of 2017.
Mob lynching cases are rising where the self-proclaimed cow vigilante groups in the name of cow protection, lynches innocent individuals and in most of these lynching cases, it has been found that the accusations which led to the lynching of the victims had no truth in it and it was all because of hate propaganda. No individual or any group should take laws into their own hands and deal with a person according to their own will in the name of enforcement of the law. This questions the existence of our prevailing law system in the country and such incidents should not be tolerated in a civilized society that respects the fundamental principles of the law.
Huge protests were held against such activities of lynching and people from all the country raised their voice condemning mob lynching activities and the cow vigilante groups behind these incidents. Initiatives were taken by a lot of individuals to create a cognizance among people about such incidents and to stop misuse of social media to spread rumors by planting fake stories and news which eventually brought such activities. Tehseen Poonawalla, a social activist, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the animal protection laws in 6 states which had provided loopholes to these cow vigilante groups to take the law into their hands.
Facts of the case
- Several incidents of mob lynching had happened in India in the name of cow vigilantism and disturbed by these events, three individuals namely Mohanbhai Hamir Bhai Bedva, Matin Macwan, a Dalit rights activist, and Tehseen Poonawalla, a social activist, filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
- Mob lynching incidents which were highlighted in the writ petition are:
- The hanging of two men in Balumath forests in Latehar District in Jharkhand.
- The flogging of Dalits in Una, Gujarat.
- Mob lynching Pehlu Khan in Alwar district in Rajasthan.
- Mob lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in the town of Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.
- The cow protection laws of 6 states- Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, were challenged by the petitioner. The particular provisions were challenged which absolved individuals from legal liability for actions done in good faith.
- The petitioner wanted the respondent states to take necessary and instant actions against all those cow protection groups who were involved in violence and to remove anything violent content posted on social media by the said groups.
- Whether immediate and necessary actions should be taken by the states and Centre against the cow protection groups for indulging in violence?
- Whether the Centre and states should issue a further writ to remove all the violent content posted on social media by these cow protection groups?
- Whether certain provisions of animal protection laws such as Section 12 of the Gujarat Animal Prevention Act, 1954, Section 13 of the Maharashtra Animal Prevention Act, 1976, and Section 15 of the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964 are unconstitutional?
On behalf of the petitioner
- It was argued by Mr. Sanjay R. Hedge that no person or cow protection group can involve himself/themselves in the activity of lynching a person on the mere perception that a crime has been committed and that lynching or any kind of mob violence has to be suppressed by the executive. The legal procedures provided under the law have to be followed and no one should take laws in their hand.
- It was argued by Ms. Indira Singh that it is the duty of the Union and the states to take immediate measures to stop such violent activities and it is on the Centre and the state to make sure that the minorities are not targeted by the mob violence and these vigilante groups and if these activities of lynching are not stopped, individuals will start taking the law into their own and enforce the law according to their judgement.
- It was further argued by her that the Central Government has the authority to intervene in the practice of powers by the States, conferred by Article 256 and Article 257 of the Indian Constitution.
On behalf of the respondent
- It was stated by Ms. Hemantika Wahi that in the state of Gujarat, all those persons who were involved in the lynching activities have been arrested and booked for relevant offenses and necessary police action is taken against them.
- Mr. Tapesh Kumar Singh stated that in the state of Jharkhand, legal actions have been taken against and criminal cases have been registered against the persons who had been involved in mob lynching cases.
- Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Solicitor General appearing for the Union of India said that these incidents of lynching relate to the state, as law and order is a state subject and that the Union of India does not support the lynching activities by the vigilante groups.
The bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, A.M Khanwilkar, and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud gave the judgement, in this case, addressing all the sensitive issues and issued certain guidelines covering the area of preventive, remedial, and punitive measures to suppress the activities of lynching in the country.
The Supreme Court held that law enforcement agencies must look after the proper administration of law and no private individual shall be allowed to take law in their hands or to behave in a fashion that they are the law themselves. The Supreme Court referring to the suggestions made by the learned Senior Counsel Sanjay R. Hedge in which the petitioner wanted the court to take immediate and necessary measures against the self-proclaimed cow vigilante groups who were indulging in violence and mob lynching in the name of cow protection. The court noted Sanjay R. Hedge’s submission stated that no person or vigilante group can involve themselves in an act of violence on the underlying perception of an idea that a crime has been committed and any kind of lynching or mob violence has to be restrained and disabled by the Central Government and the recent case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India was cited.
The Supreme Court after listening to all the arguments came up with some guidelines to curb the rising cases of mob lynching. The guidelines were made under three categories i.e. preventive, remedial, and punitive measures. It was believed that when the preventive measures would face failure, the crimes will be controlled by the remedial and punitive measures.
- The state governments would appoint a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police as a nodal officer in each district. The nodal officer shall be helped by one of the DSP rank officers in the district for taking actions to stop the incidents of mob violence and lynching. A special task force shall be made to get the intelligence reports about such individuals who are likely to indulge in such crimes of violence or who are engaged in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements, and made-up news.
- Districts, subdivisions, and villages will be pinpointed by the state governments where cases of mob lynching have been reported recently.
- It will be the duty of the nodal officer to make sure that the officer-in-charge of the police station of the pinpointed areas are always a little extra cautious if any case of mob lynching within their jurisdiction comes to their notice.
- Regular meetings were to be held by the nodal officer to identify any chances of mob lynching and take necessary steps to stop any spread of violent content on different social media platforms.
- Police officers should use their power under Section 129 of CrPC to deal with cases of mob lynching and under circumstances where he or she thinks that a similar crime may be committed in their presence.
- A warning should be given by the Central and state governments on radio and television and other media platforms which includes the official website of the law enforcing agencies that lynching and mob violence will invite serious actions under the law.
- Steps should be taken by the Central and state governments to curb and stop the dissemination of violent posts on social media platforms which tend to provoke mob violence and lynching of any kind.
- Police are to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or relevant provisions of law against individuals who spread the hateful message on social media platforms which is likely to provoke mob violence and lynching cases
- The state government shall be directed by the advisories of the Central Government which shall show the seriousness of the situation and the actions to be taken by the state government.
- If any case of mob lynching comes to the notice of the local police station, an FIR should be immediately lodged without any delay.
- The police station where the FIR is lodged shall inform about the same to the Nodal Officer in the district.
- The nodal officer shall personally monitor the investigation in such cases to ensure an effective investigation and that the charge sheet is filed within the statutory period.
- A compensation scheme shall be prepared by the state government in the light of the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC to help the family of the victims.
- Fast track courts should be established to ensure speedy trials of the cases of lynching and mob violence.
- The trial courts should award the maximum sentence to the convict to set stern examples in cases of lynching and mob violence.
- Actions shall be taken to conceal the identity of a witness and address of the witness for their protection.
- The victim or the next of the kin of the deceased victim shall receive free legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
- If a police officer or an officer of the district administration is found to have failed to follow the directions of the court to stop and/or to investigate and/or to facilitate the speedy trial of any crime of lynching and mob violence, then it shall be acknowledged as an act of deliberate negligence and misconduct.
- Such an act of deliberate negligence and misconduct must be punished by the government and departmental inquiry must be initiated against the individual.
- The state government are to take disciplinary actions against the officers if it found that:
- The officer did not take any actions to stop the incident of lynching or mob violence despite having prior knowledge that the said incident was about to take place
- The officer did not instantly arrest and start the criminal proceedings against the culprits involved in the violence.
Present status of the case
On the date of 20th August 2018, the Supreme Court started observing the enforcement of the guidelines issued in the judgement of the case. In the first hearing after giving the judgement, the court formally rebuked the states who had not given the compliance report and gave the states a deadline to submit the report and warned them that they are to face strict consequences.
Mob lynching questions the functioning of the law enforcement agencies in the country. There cannot be a judgement and punishment of a crime by individuals on the street. People do not have the authority to become the guardian of law and enforce the law according to their will. Everybody has a right to a fair trial and to be held innocent until proven guilty by the court and if convicted, shall be awarded punishment as per the judgement of the court. But killing a person barely on the perception that the individual might have committed a crime is a barbarous act in itself and should be avoided at all times. No individual shall think that he has the power to behave like he is the law and the punisher in himself and this kind of thinking shall not be entertained in a country where the rule of law prevails.
India has enough legal provisions laid down in IPC and CrPC to deal with all sorts of criminal acts and if these provisions are backed by the guidelines set by the case of Tehseen Poonawala, we will have the adequate legal power to deal with cases of mob lynching.
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