SC asks centre, states to enact special laws to stop lynching
17 July 2018
The Supreme Court has come out heavily against government apathy to recent incidents of mob violence and lynching with people taking law into their own hands and asked Parliament to pass law to make lynching a separate offence with punishment.
Describing lynching as "horrendous acts of mobocracy", a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held that it was the obligation of the state to protect citizens and ensure that the "pluralistic social fabric" of the country holds against mob violence.
The judgment authored by Chief Justice Misra for the Bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, directed the central and state governments to implement measures and file compliance reports within the next four weeks.
The apex court also said such law should be effective enough to instill a sense of fear in the perpetrators.
The court said it is shocking to see that the ordinary Indian remains a mute witness to the frequent incidents of lynchings happening right before his eyes, which makes the rule of law irrelevant for the society. The government should see the judgment as a "clarion call" in a time of exigency and work towards strengthening the social order, the bench said.
The centre and the states must ensure that "nobody takes the law into his hands nor become a law into himself", the court said, and suggested preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with lynching and mob violence.
The SC bench passed the order on a plea seeking formulation of guidelines to curb such violent incidents in the country. The contempt petition filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla said that despite the Supreme Court order to the states to prevent lynchings and violence by cow vigilantes, the crime continued with impunity.
The apex court directed the central and state governments to take steps to stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms, which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
The police should register FIR under Section 153A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind, the court said.
The state governments have been asked to prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme in the light of the provisions of Section 357A of CrPC within one month from the date of the judgment.
The court said cases of lynching and mob violence should be specifically tried by designated court/fast track courts earmarked for that purpose in each district. Such courts should hold trial of the case on a day-to-day basis.
The apex court also wanted punishment in cases of mob violence and lynching, upon conviction of the accused person, to be maximum provided for various offences under the provisions of the IPC.
If a police officer or an officer of the district administration fails to comply with the directions in order to prevent and/or investigate and/or facilitate expeditious trial of any crime of mob violence and lynching, it should be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken against him/her and not limited to departmental action under the service rules. The departmental action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months by the authority of the first instance.
The states have been directed to take disciplinary action against concerned officials if it is found that such official(s) did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or where the incident has already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.
It is the duty of the state to ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively in maintaining peace so as to preserve our quintessentially secular ethos and pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by rule of law.
Apart from the directions the bench said it found it appropriate to recommend to the legislature, that is, the Parliament, to create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same. “We have said so as a special law in this field would instill a sense of fear for law amongst the people who involve themselves in such kinds of activities. There can be no trace of doubt that fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilized society.”
The court ordered the Centre and the States to implement the measures and file compliance reports within the next four weeks.
The court had earlier classified lynchings as sheer "mob violence" and had said that compensation for victims should not be determined solely on the basis of their religion, caste, etc, but on the basis of the extent of injury caused as "anyone can be a victim" of such a crime.
Chief Justice Misra said the states could not give even the "remotest chance" to let lynchings happen.