Cracking its whip against increasing incidents of mob violence, the Supreme Court (SC) has asked the Government to create a separate law to deal with lynching offenders.
OBSERVATION BY THE COURT
- Coming down heavily on mob lynching, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said in a sharply worded 45-page judgment:
- horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become a new norm in the country. “Citizens cannot take the law into their hands or become a law unto themselves”.
- No citizen can take law into their own hands. Self-appointed vigilantes cannot be allowed to take the law into their hands.
- In case of fear and anarchy, the state has to act positively. Violence cannot be allowed.
- It is the duty of the State to ensure rule of law is preserve and State Governments to maintain the secular structure and legal system of the country.
DIRECTIONS TO THE CENTRE
- The apex court said lynching has to be dealt with as a special and separate offense and recommend the enactment of the law in this regard.
- While issuing detailed guidelines to tackle the mob culture in India, the apex court asked the Centre and State governments to file a compliance report to prevent and punish lynching.
- The bench asked the Government to take preventive, punitive and remedial measures to stop lynching incidents in the future.
- The SC had, on July 3, reserved its verdict on pleas seeking directions to formulate guidelines to curb such violence, saying no one can take the law into their hands.
- The court has passed the order on petitions by filed by, inter alia Congress leader Tehseen Ponnawalla and Tushar Gandhi (great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), in view of the rising instances of cow vigilantism.
- However, the apex court seems to have extended its judgment on mob lynchings in general and not specific to cow vigilantism.
- Dictionary meaning of Lynch says, ‘kill someone for an alleged offense without a legal trial’.
- The word ‘lynching’ originated in mid-18th century America. Back then the term referred to vigilante justice meted out to black people.
- Lynching is not a problem that is limited to a specific country. Various UN reports refer to lynching cases from Sudan, Nigeria, Haiti and other countries.
- According to a 2013-UNPOL (UN Police) report, lynching is widespread in Haiti.
- Though India does not maintain a separate data for lynching cases, reports of such cases have become more common in recent times in the country.
IS THERE ANY LAW TO PREVENT LYNCHING
- In April this year, Malaysia has framed such a law to prevent mob lynching. Nigeria has also drafted an anti-lynching law.
- An anti-lynching bill in the US Senate has been launched last month.
- However, at present India does not have a specific law to deal with lynching. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not mention the word lynching.
- Though Section 223 (a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 states that persons or a mob involved in the same offense in the same act can be tried together.
- Somehow, this provision has not helped in delivering justice in cases of mob lynching.
SHAKING THE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPT OF LAW
- In India, every person has the right to live with dignity and there can not be any right higher than this
- What the law provides may be taken away by lawful means, that is the fundamental concept of law
- No citizen has the right to assault the human dignity of another, for such an action would comatose the majesty of the law.
- Lynching cannot be allowed to become the order of the day, such vigilantism has the effect of undermining the legal and formal institutions of the State and altering the Constitutional order.
- The court said that these incidents have to be “nipped in the bud; lest it would lead to rising of anarchy and lawlessness which would plague and corrode the nation like an epidemic, unless these incidents are controlled, the day is not far when such monstrosity in the name of self-professed morality is likely to assume the shape of a huge cataclysm.
- Since mob lynching has become a sweeping phenomenon with a far-reaching impact and now it is the court’s “Constitutional duty to take a call to protect lives and human rights”.
- It is the duty of the Government to prevent mob vigilantism and mob violence by taking strict action and the vigil society who ought to report such incidents to the state machinery and the police instead of taking the law into their own hands.
The spate of lynchings has continued unabated throughout the country. In most of the cases, the victims of lynching belong to marginalized groups like Muslim, Adivasi, Dalit, Christian, and others. Allegations of cow smuggling, beef eating, love jihad as well as of heinous crimes like rape and sexual violence make it more convenient to orchestrate lynching and mob violence. Though, highlighting the barbarities of mob lynching and questioning the authorities is in no way an attempt to undermine the severity of the crime they allegedly committed or at absolving them of this crime. There is need to understand the reason which plays a vital role in lynching and mob violence, and law and order machinery in the country should be made more stringent to make sure that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism of any perception, does not take place.