This article is written by Sparsh Agrawal, student, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. In this article, the legal provisions of mob lynching are stated and also requisite reforms are recommended in order to solve the aforesaid problem.
Table of Contents
As per the report of IndiaSpend there, the cases on mob lynching are increasing each year. The Cambridge dictionary has defined the term ‘vigilance’ as law enforcement which is undertaken without any legal authority by a self-appointed group of people. And the incidents of lynching involve people who wish to enforce legal authority without any lawful justification.
The incident of lynching is where a group of people kill a particular person alleging him for an offence which is usually based on some religious prejudice or humour. This happens when the belief of one community about an issue is not in accordance with the view of the other community, due to such conflict the unlawful act of mob-lynching takes place. In India, most of the cow-related mob attacks are reported highest in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Gujrat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.
In India, there is no codified law against mob lynching, however, Sub Section(a) of Section 223 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 contains the relevant provision for persons being charged for an offence jointly when they are alleged of the same offence committed in the course of the same transaction which is applicable to two or more people. The victims of such lynching are treated miserably. They are often brutally beaten, chained, and hanged which causes them grievous hurt or even death.
Impact of mob lynching in the country
Pertinently, there has been an increase in the number of cases related to lynching. The BJP government came into power in the year 2014 and since then there has been an increase in the frequency of such attacks. This act of people taking the law into their hands because of the shallow knowledge of the Justice System poses a serious threat to the Rule of Law and principles of Natural Justice. Such acts have also posed serious threats to minority groups in the country and appropriate steps must be taken in order to check and deter such crimes.
Furthermore, there have been instances where violence has been caused by vigilantes who have some political connection with the right-wing parties and such people believe themselves to be politically correct while committing such offences. Such instances of mob violence across the country have often resulted in promoting majoritarianism by propagating the beliefs of the majority by suppressing the basic rights of the minorities.
In a country like India, people taking law into their own hands is unacceptable since citizens of the country have been granted various fundamental rights and such lynching cases are abusing their right to life, right to a fair trial, etc. India is a secular state and it’s important to ensure that interests of the minority are being protected and they are not suppressed by the majority.
Supreme Court on mob lynching
In the Judgement of Tehseen S. Ponawalla v. Union of India & others, Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra along with the three-judge bench condemned the recent incidents regarding mob lynching and mob attacks taking place against Dalits and the people belonging to a minority community. On 17th July 2018, he asked the parliament to formulate and pass legislation which makes mob lynching a separate offence and also defines punishment which can act as a deterrent to lynching cases.
Further, the bench contended that no individual in his individual capacity or a part of a particular group can take the law of land into his/their hands and give punishment which they are not bound to give. Moreover, the Chief Justice of India himself mentioned the need to issue directions to take punitive, remedial, and preventive measures.
These steps are being taken in accordance with the Writ Petition which was filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution by the social activist. He demanded immediate and necessary action against the mob lynching done by the cow protection groups who are indulging in excessive violence. The petition even claimed for removal of violent content from the social media uploaded by the said groups.
Mob violence and mob vigilantism must be prevented by the governments by taking strict action and people ought to report such incidents of taking law into their own hands.
In the aforesaid case itself, the Central government has itself approached the Supreme Court of India, in order to implement the guidelines for the offence of mob violence. Therefore, in accordance with the interim order, the full bench of the Supreme Court has directed some measures in order to cope with this particular issue. The measures are as follows;-
- The state government must appoint a senior police officer in the respective areas who are not below the rank of Superintendent of police. The Nodal officer must be appointed in each and every district. Moreover, this officer will also be assisted by a police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in order to prevent mob violence in the respective district. The Supreme court even suggested that a Special Task Force must be in a function to prepare the reports of those who are suspected in such crimes or who are involved in spreading the false stories or hate speech or any other provocative statements.
- The police officer who has been appointed in the district will have a duty to disperse the mob which has a tendency to commit the offence of mob lynching by applying the powers given to him under Section 129 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Further, the State governments and Central Governments shall also have a duty to take relevant steps such as broadcasting on the media platforms, radio televisions and official websites that any kind of mob-lynching or mob-violence is a punishable offence under Indian Penal Code and the people committing it will be suffering rigorous punishment such as life imprisonment.
- Moreover, police should also register the First Information Report in accordance with Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code or any other relevant provisions of Indian Law which have broadcasted such irresponsible and explosive messages and violence in various social media platforms, which could have a possible element to inspire lynching or mob violence.
- After the decision has been in favour of the victims by any court, the state government must prepare a compensation plan for the victims of mob lynching or mob violence in accordance with the Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code, and also such compensation should be provided to the victim or to his family members within 1 month of the decision.
- The cases related to mob lynching must undergo trial in fast track courts of respective Districts. This will ensure speedier justice to the victims as such courts would conduct trials on a daily basis and will complete the required procedures of the case within 6 months from the date of primary cognizance. This shall also ensure compliance with the pending cases. It will be a duty of the State government as well as the Nodal officer to decide whether the prosecution is effectively playing its role in the proceedings of the case or not.
- In order to set relevant examples in the cases of mob lynching and mob violence, the court must convict the guilty with maximum punishment for the commission of the crime in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code which will act as a deterrent who are committing such offence.
- Moreover, if there is a scenario where the police or district administration has failed to comply with the guidelines or instructions stated above in preventing the crime of violence and lynching or in making any investigation, it must be considered as an act of disobedience on part of the police officer, and action for negligence must be taken against him.
Punishments for lynching
There is no codified law or legal provision in our country dealing specifically with lynching or mob attacks. However, the punishment for mob lynching is provided under the ambit of the following laws currently under Indian Penal Code:
- Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code– This particular section in IPC deals with punishments related to the murder. It stated that whoever commits murder is punished wither with imprisonment for life or with punishment for death. In many cases, the convict may be even liable to be penalized.
- Section 304 of Indian Penal Code– Section 304 of IPC talks about punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The punishment can be as follows:
-The person can be punished for 10 years of imprisonment and a requisite fine can also be imposed on him for the crime committed or may cause the injury that can likely cause the death of a person.
- Section 325 of the Indian Penal Code– This particular section defines punishment for causing grievous hurt to a person voluntarily. Under the provision of this section, if a person, except in case of provocation (as provided for by section 335), voluntarily causing grievous hurt, is likely to be punished with imprisonment of either for a term of up to seven years and also payment of fine.
- Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code– This section states the punishment regarding the acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. It states that when a criminal act is done by several persons in regard to a common intention, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.
- Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code– This section defines the punishment regarding parties who are participating in a criminal conspiracy together. It states that:
-Conspiracy when done for an offence which is punishable with life imprisonment or death or with punishment for imprisonment for 2 years or more, the offender is to be punished in the same manner as in case of abetment while committing the offence.
-In the case of conspiracy for an offence that is not punishable with death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for 2 years or above, the offender is liable to be punished with imprisonment for up to six months or maybe with fine or both.
Manav suraksha kanoon
In 2017, A bill was drafted by National Campaign Against Mob Lynching. The name of the bill is Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) to begin a legal conversion against a group of people involved lynching. Prakash Ambedkar, who is a grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, and an activist Tehseen Poonawlla have drafted a law in order to accommodate new law with respect to Mob violence by amending Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. According to this bill, the concerned SHO (State House Officer) of the area shall be suspended until a time-bound judicial probe absolves him of all his charges. Moreover, this particular bill will also work in providing relief to the affected people and will also help in the rehabilitation of the families of the victim.
In the case of Nandini Sundar and others v, State of Chattisgarh had claimed a number of human rights violations for the people belonging to District of Dantewada District and also its neighbouring areas in the State of Chattisgarh because of the ongoing armed Maoist insurgency. In order to curb this, the authorities belonging to the government of Chhattisgarh hired a local tribal youth group as SPO’s and armed them in order to fight with the Maoists. The authorities claimed that the government is right in arming the tribal people in accordance with the Indian Constitution in order to fight the ‘extremist Maoists. The Supreme Court observed in this case that it is the duty of the State to Strive, incessantly and consistently, in order to promote fraternity among all the citizens such that dignity of every citizen can be protected, promoted, and nourished. Therefore, it is the duty of the state to prevent crime in the state in order to maintain absolute harmony among the people.
In the case of Mohd. Haroon and others v. Union of India and another a writ petition was filed in the Supreme court in relation to the riots happening around District Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. There was a communal tension in the city which resulted in forcing people to abandon their homes out of anxiety and fear. The petitioners, in this case, claimed that the local administration instead of enforcing the law allowed the congregation to take place negligently and also failed to monitor its proceedings. Further, it was also held that the victims of mob lynching cannot be discriminated against on the basis of the community or any religion. The relief to the communities must be given in terms of rehabilitation and compensation. The Supreme Court also observed and stated that it is the duty of the State Administration in the association of relevant intelligence agencies belonging to both Center and State to prevent the communal violence happening in every part of the State. If at all any officer responsible for maintaining law and order in the state is found negligent, he shall be punished in accordance with the law.
Moreover, in the case of Archbishop Raphael Cheenath S.V.D v. the State of Orissa and another, a Writ Petition was filed before the court in order to highlight the failure on part of the State Orissa in deploying police force to maintain the law and order situation in Kandhamal District of Orissa and in protecting its people when the assassination of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati took place by the Maoists. In this case, the court observed that the government of the State must inquire into and find relevant causes or such communal riots and also strengthen the police infrastructure so that communal unrest can be curbed. The court emphasized the peace-building measures in the State.
The origin of the Lynching’s started from the Southern part of the United States where there was a racial conflict between the slaves and whites in the 19th Century. It happened when the slaves were freed and whites blamed them for the financial crisis in the country. Almost 3446 of the 4743 lynchings have occurred in America. The whites believed that giving too much freedom to the blacks is not fair, thus the instances of mob violence took place in America.
Pertinently, the United Kingdom which ruled countries like India and America faced the crime of vigilant mob lynching when Stephen Lawerence was lynched by a mob, back in the year 1993 when racial disturbances were prevalent in the country. Furthermore, in the absence of stringent laws for mob lynching, the police officials were unable to catch the offenders. This was considered as a failure of justice and law of the land along with the failure of relevant administrative authorities. Yet again there was another incident when 4 white men set fire to a person named Michael due to racial conflicts. However, it is worth mentioning that the United Kingdom since 1998 has no official reported crime of mob lynching.
The failure of various law enforcement agencies, as well as the police, have contributed towards vigilantes to punish who are accused of crimes like theft, robbery, kidnapping, housebreakings, etc. Such instances have been seen in some of the African countries where crime is prevalent at a high rate due to poverty, lack of education, and job opportunities.
Another country which is affected by mob violence is Brundai. According to the reports released by Human Rights Watch and Association for Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODHI) have released a report pertaining to issues of mob justice in the country. The report stated that Mob justice in the country has at times found direct involvement of the public authorities and people involved in the administration in public killings or beating up of suspected criminals. The report made a contention that due to lack of faith in the police force and Judicial system of the country, inadequate resources, incompetence, and corruption practices by the authorities have led many Brudians to believe that the Judicial system of the country is not appropriate to secure their rights.
Case studies on mob lynching
In India, Lynching incidents have given rise to Implementation and Exertion of Anti-Lynching Laws in India. It is very unfortunate that Mob savagery laws do not completely cover the ambit of mob lunching and there is no strict obligation that is emerged on the mob. Thus, in cases of mob lynching justice has not been served to the victims. The following are the Case studies related to mob lunching:-
- Dadri Lynching case was held in Bisra Village, Uttar Pradesh in 2015. The person was lynched due to regional and communal differences. The person’s name was Mohammad Akhlaq. He was accused of slaughtering a cow for storing its meat for consumption. When this came into the knowledge of the Hindu community of the village, they lynched both the father and son. The fact of the matter is that this case is considered as one of the first cases which were religious-based and in the name of the cow the person was lynched.
- Another instance happened in the Alwar District of Rajasthan in 2017. The issue pertinent in this case was that some people belonging to the Muslim community were accused of cattle smuggling and slaughtering of calves. The police department of Alwar filed a case against Khan for smuggling but he was permitted by the government to do so.
- In 2017, a lynching case happened in Delhi. It was based on the caste system prevailing that people belonging to lower case or backward classes of people need to suffer. In this case, a rickshaw driver stopped some of the college students as they were urinating on the public wall due to intoxication. The students who were intoxicated became furious and lynched the rickshaw driver.
- Palghar mob Lynching case: It is pertinent to note that, on 16th April, 2020 a driver and two Sadhus were lynched by an angry mob. All the victims belonged to a village called Gadchinchale located in the Palghar district of Maharashtra. This unfortunate incident was fuelled by a rumour which was circulated on WhatsApp, wherein it was stated that there have been thieves operating in the village amidst the coronavirus lockdown.
Later, upon the investigation, it was known that the vigilant mob lynching happens because the group had mistaken the three thieves and eventually they killed them. Furthermore, the police officers who tried to save these sadhus by such a vigilant mob also faced major injuries. Furthermore, after the incident, there was a rumour on WhatsApp in order to stoke religious tension. However, as per the complete list of arrested people, none of the members of vigilant attackers was Muslims. Pertinently, the state government of Maharashtra even clarified that both the victims and the attackers belonged to the same religion.
There are several reforms that need to be taken into consideration with respect to mob lynching cases in India and worldwide. The administration in India needs to take steps to ensure speedier justice.
- For example- Firstly, Registering FIR without any delay, quashing the cases which may add further victimization upon the weak and poor, quashing the bail applications as it may pose a serious threat to the victims and their family because of the attached hate crime.
- Moreover, a mechanism should be set up to determine the quantum of compensation to be paid to the victims or their family for the loss suffered by them and also for better access to justice, schemes such as free legal aid should be made part of the system.
- Further, to ensure that justice has been delivered to the victims of mob violence, the government should take appropriate steps to pass law demanded by Civil Society, Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MaSuka) which provides that stringent laws should be made for mob violence, and also laws related to mob lynching must be non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable and also invite life imprisonment along with a time-bound trial of the culprit. Moreover, compensation to the families of victims and the police action must be considered to ensure the protection of the witnesses. Just like SC/ST (Prevention from atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Protection of Women and Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are meant for protection of the group and securing ends of Justice, similarly, MaSuka must do the same for the victims of mob lynchings.
- The parliament can also play an important role in enhancing the laws related to mob lynching. The parliament should act in accordance to the guidelines specified by the Supreme Courts, and accordingly draft and pass a new law to deal cases related to mob violence which would aim to provide maximum punishment to the lynchers along with the officials who are directly or indirectly part of the mob lynching instances. Further, the new law must define the term ‘mob lynching’ which is not defined is any of the current statutes.
Mob lynching may happen because of various reasons. Witch-hunting was one of the reasons for mob violence, where 2000 mentally challenged women were lynched for rumours that put an allegation upon them of stealing and murdering children. In India cases like communal conflagrations as in 1984 Sikh riots, Anti-Muslim riots in Gujrat in India or Lynching case of Ghulam Muhammad by Hindu Yuva Mahaini just because of his relationship with a Hindu girl in the neighbourhood which has impacted this country in a miserable manner. In order to overcome such instances, awareness must be created among people who take responsibility to enforce the laws themselves and violate other people’s rights because of the shallow understanding of Justice.
In today’s scenario, the instances of Lynching’s and vigilante attacks have become an instrument of choice for violence against minorities, especially persons belonging to minority communities like Muslims. Both Vigilante attacks and lynching are different from ‘communal riots’. These are episodes of acts of mob violence mostly by people who assume the authority of the state due to shallow understanding of Justice. It has been said that lynchings have taken place regularly, which has amounted to the “national epidemic”.
As a result of such a case, the people of India are learning to endure justice with an intense sense of foreboding which has amounted to-a lurking, unnamed, unspoken fear. Due to its extreme nature, it has led to fear in the minds of people of being attacked by mobs and also being vulnerable in the situation.
India has unfortunately witnessed the numerous mob lynching and mob violence cases reported from various parts of the country. Most of the cases were in consequence of the reaction to the beef-ban orders of the government in the country. It can be interpreted that all lynching activities based on identity discriminate against the whole community which violates Article 14 and Article 15 of the Indian Constitution. The present situation of mob attacks in the country is miserable and there is a need for separate legislation to be enacted in order to protect the victims of mob violence and also to implement strict procedures to curb the attacks and punish the wrongdoers involved in the mob violence.
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