Mob Lynching in India – A New Normal?

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This post has been penned by Sejal Sahu, student, Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur

In recent times, after witnessing the rise in cases of mob lynching in India, it becomes important to understand the concept of mob lynching. The recent one being THE PALGHAR MOB LYNCHING INCIDENT

What happened in the Palghar mob lynching incident?

The incident took place on April 16 2020 when three ascetics were driving to a funeral in Surat and were stopped and attacked by a group of villagers in Gadchinchle, a tribal village in a remote part of Palghar after allegedly suspecting them to be child-kidnappers and organ harvesters.

The Supreme Court Friday sought a report from the Maharashtra government on the ongoing investigation in the Palghar incident.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna sought the report while hearing a plea, through video-conferencing, which has alleged that the incident was a failure on the part of the police as a mob had gathered there in violation of the lockdown rules.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for petitioner Shashank Shekhar Jha referred to the media reports and claimed that police was complicit in the incident as they did not use force to prevent it.

Let’s discuss more about Mob lynching.

What is Mob lynching? 

Before discussing mob lynching, it is essential to know what does mob and lynching mean separately, so as to get a clear picture of it.

According to Collins dictionary, a mob is a large, disorganized and often violent crowd of people. And Lynching is the mob killing of a person suspected of a crime, especially by hanging, that is done outside of the law (dictionary.com).

The word “lynching” originated in the mid 18th century America. Origin of lynching is traced to two people named Charles lynch and William Lynch who lived in Virginia in US. Back the , lynching referred to vigilante justice meted out to black people. Before the American Civil War brought an end to slavery, several instances of black slaves being lynched were reported in the US. In some cases, whites were also lynched for opposing slavery of black people.

Thus we can say that mob lynching means the killing of a person or may be a group of people by other group of violent people based on some false information. The false information can be of cow slaughter, beef eating, enticing women, theft, etc. It leads to lawlessness in the society and the people in the society gets to suffer.

CAUSES OF MOB LYNCHING

  1. Silence of Political Class : The silence of political class is one of the direct cause of these lynchings. Even after witnessing the mob lynching they remain silent and avoid taking any step, which encourages the mob.
  2.  Rise of cow vigilante is another cause of such lynchings. Though the Supreme Court, suspended the ban on the sale of cattle in its judgment in July 2017, giving relief to the multi-billion dollar beef and leather industries and several states where beef is one among the primary foods there was a rise in attacks on Muslims accusing them as beef eaters. On September 2019 three villagers identified as Kalantus Barla, Philip Horo and Faggu Kacchap werebeing attacked by a mob, that accused them of slaughtering a cow. Police reached  the spot but Barla died on his way to the hospital.
  3. Rumours of Kidnapping : In the absence of law and order against these lynchings, killing of the child kidnappers also takes place. Thus suspicion of these kidnappers also causes lynchings.Fake news spreading through social media platforms is one of the greatest reason behind these lynchings. On August 2019 5 women who lived in UP’s kairana and sold ropes for a living, were thrashed by a mob on the suspicion of being child lifters. The mob, which also consisted of women beat them up with sandals and sticks wounding them seriously. They were rescued by the police. Same was the case of Raju and Ram Avtar of Sambhalpur, Uttarpradesh.
  4. Castes and religious sentiments : Castes and religious sentiments is another great problem, leading to mob lynching in India. Violence on the name of religion and caste is deep rooted in India.  Today most of the mob lynching cases are due to the hatred against other religion. On August 1 2019 Three young men namely, Hafiz Salman Gheeteli, Hafiz Samir Bhagat and Hafiz Sohel Bhagat were assaulted in Godhra, Gujarat by a mob after they allegedly refused to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. On Oct 1 2017 21 year old Jayesh Solanki was allegedly beaten to death for watching a garba event by the members of the upper caste Patel community in Bhadraniya village in Gujarat’s Anand district.
  5. Rumours of Theft – Theft has also led to mob lynching in India. We have seen some instances in India in the past due to theft. On June 2019 24 year old Tabrez Ansari, accused of stealing a motor cycle died in Jharkhand on June 22 2019, after allegedly being beaten by a mob and was forced to chant ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Another instance would be of Shahrukh khan who was also beaten by a mob in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareily area for allegedly stealing a buffalo, ANI reported.

Law on Mob Lynching

Mob lynching is a heinous crime and is a violation of human rights, but there is no national law in India for mob lynching, even though India has a long history of mob lynching. However, National legislation such as the Constitution of India, the Indian Penal Code and The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 can be linked with the lynching offences. National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), the principal source of official statistics on crime in India, does not record the particular cases of lynching. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that “persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together”. However, the same provision has not been used to deliver justice so far.

Incidents of lynching were generally reported under section 302 for murder, 307 for the attempt to murder, 324 for causing hurt, 147 for rioting of the Indian Penal Code and so on. Provisions such as section 153A (promoting enmity between groups and acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony); 153B acts prejudicial to maintenance of national integration), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings); and 295B (words intended to hurt religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code are considered the hate crime law in India. It is noticed that in most of the lynching cases these provisions have not included in police First Information Reports against the accused. Moreover, even where hate crime has been recorded under these sections, data is not provided disaggregated by identity groups. There was no way to know then, the difference between the ‘victim’ and the ‘perpetrator’ in these cases.

The National Campaign Against Mob Lynching, NCAML’s draft “Protection from Lynching Act 2017” defines for the first time in Indian legal history, the terms ‘lynching’, ‘mob’, and ‘victim’ of mob lynching. An act to provide for effective protection of the Constitutional rights of vulnerable persons, to punish acts of lynching, to provide for Special Courts for the expeditious trial of such offences, for rehabilitation of victims of lynching and their families and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Punishment for Offence of Lynching under this Act :- Whoever commits an act of lynching–

(a) Where the act leads to the victim suffering hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to one lak rupees.

(b)Where the act leads to the victim suffering grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and with fine which may extend to three lakh rupees.

(c) Where the act leads to the death of the victim, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.

Supreme Court’s guidelines on Mob Lynching.

The Supreme Court observed that the “extra-judicial” acts like “cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism” & lynching should be nipped in the bud and issued guidelines to the Centre and the States such as speedy trials, victim compensation deterrent punishment and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials.

A 3 judge bench consisting of the then Chief Justice Deepak Mishra and Justices AM khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud also urged Parliament to frame  special legislation to tackle the problems faced by vigilante squads and said that until then the guidelines would stand the force of law.

The court passed the order  in the case of Tehseen S Poonawala and others V. Union of India,while dealing with a batch of petitions filed by Congress activist Tehseen Poonawala and others seeking directions to combat the menace of self-appointed vigilante squads lynching people in the name of cow protection.

The Guidelines

(i)     The State Governments shall designate, a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as Nodal Officer in each district. Such Nodal Officer shall be assisted by one of the DSP rank officers in the district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching. They shall constitute a special task force so as to procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.

(ii) The State Governments shall forthwith identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past, say, in the last five years. The process of identification should be done within a period of three weeks from the date of this judgment, as such time period is sufficient to get the task done in today’s fast world of data collection.

(iii) The Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall issue directives/advisories to the Nodal Officers of the concerned districts for ensuring that the Officer In-charge of the Police Stations of the identified areas are extra cautious if any instance of mob violence within their jurisdiction comes to their notice.

(iv) The Nodal Officer, so designated, shall hold regular meetings (at least once a month) with the local intelligence units in the district along with all Station House Officers of the district so as to identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching in the district and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means for inciting such tendencies. The Nodal Officer shall also make efforts to eradicate hostile environment against any community or caste which is targeted in such incidents.

(v) The Director General of Police/the Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall take regular review meetings (at least once a quarter) with all the Nodal Officers and State Police Intelligence heads. The Nodal Officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues at the State level.

(vi) It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, by exercising his power under Section 129 of CrPC, which, in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence or wreak the havoc of lynching in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.

(vii) The Home Department of the Government of India must take initiative and work in co-ordination with the State Governments for sensitising the law enforcement agencies and by involving all the stake holders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching against any caste or community and to implement the constitutional goal of social justice and the Rule of Law.

(viii) The Director General of Police shall issue a circular to the Superintendents of Police with regard to police patrolling in the sensitive areas keeping in view the incidents of the past and the intelligence obtained by the office of the Director General. It singularly means that there should be seriousness in patrolling so that the anti-social elements involved in such crimes are discouraged and remain within the boundaries of law thus fearing to even think of taking the law into their own hands.

(ix) The Central and the State Governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites of the Home Department and Police of the States that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.

(x) It shall be the duty of the Central Government as well as the State Governments to take steps to curb and 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.

(xi) The police shall cause to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC 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.

(xii) The Central Government shall also issue appropriate directions/advisories to the State Governments which would reflect the gravity and seriousness of the situation and the measures to be taken.

Remedial measures

  • Despite the preventive measures taken by the state police, if it comes to the notice of the local police that an incident of lynching or mob violence has taken place, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately lodge an FIR
  • It shall be the duty of the station house officer to immediately intimate the nodal officer in the district who shall, in turn, ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victim(s)
  • The investigation in such offences shall be personally monitored by the nodal officer, who shall be duty-bound to ensure that the investigation is carried out effectively and the chargesheet filed within the statutory period
  • The states shall prepare a scheme to compensate lynching and mob violence victims. While calculating the compensation, the state governments shall give due regard to the nature of bodily injury, psychological injury, loss of earnings and expenses incurred on account of legal and medical expenses
  • The cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated courts in each district. Such courts shall try cases on a day-to-day basis. The trial should preferably be concluded within six months.

“We may hasten to add that this direction shall apply to even pending cases,” CJI Misra, writing the judgment, said.

Deterrent punishment

  • The trial court must ordinarily award the maximum sentence under the provisions of the IPC
  • The courts may, on application by a witness or by the public prosecutor, take such measures as it deems fit, for protection and for concealing the identity and address of the witness
  • The victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased shall be given timely notice of court proceedings
  • The victim(s) or the next of kin of the deceased shall receive free legal aid if he or she so chooses

Punitive measures

  • Departmental action must be taken against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators. Such failure will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken. The action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months.

We must unite to condemn lynchings and refrain from politicizing them”- PM Modi


REFERENCES

          (The Quint records incidents of mob lynching in India since 2015)


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