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Mob Lynching: A Barbarous Act Under A Lunatic System

The incidents of mob lynching are not new in India. This country has witnessed many such incidents earlier also. Every time an incident of this kind takes place, the most common term which is attached with it is, ‘rumor'. But a closer look at any incident of such kind transpires that there is always a pattern of motive behind all such incidents. A recent case involving the lynching of two sadhus in the state of Maharashtra has raised this question once again that why is it that we are changing our country from democracy to mobocracy?

The question as to accruing the responsibility of the shocking incident to someone is a matter of inquiry. However, the video clips which have become visible, not long after the occurrence of the said incident have raised some serious questions. =

The behavior of the police officers who have been alleged to remain the mute spectators of the incident raises some serious questions regarding the current position of the law enforcement agencies. They have represented the most obverse behavior of the police by standing as a ring master of the mob justice happening there. The first and the foremost question to be considered here is that despite the nationwide lock down, how far was it justified on the part of the police to allow a crowd involving more than hundred people to accumulate at that place. It seems as the police was unaware of the laws of unlawful assembly.

At this point of time it seems very important to understand that the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India had in the year 2018 while pronouncing it's verdict in the case of Tahseen S. Poonawala v. UOI (WP(C) No. 754/2016) specifically described lynching as a horrendous act of mobocracy.

The Hon'ble Court had also directed both, the Centre and State governments to frame laws specifically to deal with the crime of lynching. The Court had also laid down certain guidelines for the effective justice administration like the setting up of fast-track Courts for dealing with these matters. The Court had also laid stress upon ensuring sufficient arrangements for ensuring compensation to the victims and punishing the law- enforcing officers who fail to perform their duty.

However, it is extremely dismaying to know that these extremely pacifying solutions suggested by the Hon'ble Court have not been implemented sufficiently both, at the Central and the State level. As for now Manipur, West Bengal and Rajasthan are the only three states that have enacted laws against mob lynching.

II. Present legal provisions to ensure punishment

With there being no Central legislation in this regard, the criminal justice system is forced to operate with the existing laws for the delivery of justice. Since lynching is an offence which is committed by several people jointly, they are charged and tried jointly. Section 223 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 elucidates the conditions under which persons can be charged for an offence jointly. It states that when several people are accused of the same offence committed in the course of same transaction which is applicable to two or more people, they can be charged jointly.

Nature of the offence

The attacks relating to lynching usually involves offences like harassment, assault, attempt to murder. This is because most of these attacks involve brutally beating, chaining, stripping and humiliating the victim.

Punishment

The current legal provisions under which the offence of lynching is tried are as follows:

Where death is caused – The group of people may be charged u/s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the offence of murder[1].

Where death is not caused-

  1. Under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
  2. Under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code for the offence of attempt to murder.
  3. Under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code for causing voluntary hurt.
  4. Under Section 325 of the Indian Penal Code for causing grievous hurt.
Due to the involvement of more than one person in the commission of the offence of lynching, the following provisions of the Indian Penal Code are also attracted.

1. Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code

According to this section 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[2].

2. Section 147 of the Indian Penal Code

This Section provides the punishment for the offence of ‘rioting' as specified in section 146 of the code.

3.Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code-

This section identifies every member of an unlawful assembly to be guilty of an offence commit­ted in the prosecution of a common object if the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object.

III. Solutions highlighted by the Hon'ble Supreme Court

The Hon'ble Supreme Court had, in its landmark judgement on the increased cases of mob lynching in India made an observation that the common people of the country cannot be allowed to take law in their hand under any circumstances.

The Court had further ordered the registration of FIR under section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code and other such provisions against anybody who indulges in this practice. The Court had also directed for setting up of fast track Courts so that the trial can run on a day-to-day basis in these matters. The Court had also guided towards serving maximum punishments to the offenders involved in the offence of mob lynching.

The Court had strictly directed the State governments to take disciplinary action against those police officials who fail to prevent such incidents in spite of having prior knowledge or against those who purposefully fail to institute criminal proceedings against those involved in the offence.

The Court had stressed upon the point that the protection of the fundamental right of life and liberty of a citizen is of paramount importance in a democratic society and it is the responsibility of the governments to ensure the same.
At this point of time, it seems that, had these guidelines issued by the Court been followed, the number of new incidents could hopefully have been reduced.

IV. The possible reasons behind such unruly behavior

If the sequence of responsibility is carefully observed in case of offences of this kind, it can be reasonably understood that it starts form the police and ends at the prosecution. The first responder to any such situation is the police. Hence, it's responsibility is also of the cardinal nature. Any lacuna on its part could trigger a situation where the gravest murder of the democracy can be seen. Thus, it is the prime responsibility of the police officials to work effectively in the direction of preventing and reducing these offences. Any failure on the part of the law enforcing agencies could lead to the people undermining the power of law and taking laws in their own hand.

This could lead to a situation of anarchy, chaos and the emergence of a violent society. Moreover, the responsibility of investigation also rests on the shoulders of the police. In this situation also the role of police is important so as to drag the offenders to the doors of justice. An effective investigation can serve two purposes. First of all it can sweep out the anti-social elements from the society. Secondly, it helps in strengthening the trust of people on the police.

After the law enforcing agencies, the next major responsibility lies upon the shoulders of the prosecution. A bad prosecution can act as a poison for the case and can be a contributing factor in the degradation of the justice delivery system. It can cause unnecessary delay in the justice delivery system thereby reducing the trust of the people in the justice delivery system of the country, which as a result would lead to substantial increase in the possibility of occurrence of such incidents in the future.

A closer look at the patterns of the cases of lynching show one common characteristic, i.e. the loss of trust of the people. In most of the cases it has been reported that the incidents of lynching happen due to the mob becoming intolerant and furious after believing in the fake news and circulations. This drives the people towards taking laws in their hands. Thus, one of the sole reasons behind the occurrence of incidents of these types is the loss of faith of the people on the State machinery. There is a need to rebuild the same.

V. Solutions thereto

1. Education and awareness

While it is true that in many cases these incidents result from the unlawful behaviour of some anti-social elements, it is equally true that many a times people participate in the commission of this offence by falling prey to the rumours. Thus, it is very important to make people aware of the machinery provided by the Constitution for the maintenance of law and order in the society. Moreover, legal awareness programs should be organised at the grassroot levels in the country to make people aware of the consequences of breaking the law. In this manner, the involvement of poor law-laymen can be reduced in these offences and the anti-social elements could be identified and punished.

2. Re-establishing the faith of people upon the Sate machinery-

A number of political thinkers and social philosophers have mentioned that ‘state' is an entity without which an individual cannot exist. This is because the state has the machinery to ensure the protection of the rights of the individuals so as to transform the society into a civil society. It seems that people have started to loose their faith and confidence in the state machinery due to which they have turned up to the use of force. But these attempts can lead to the demolition of the civil society. To prevent this, the following attempts could be made:

2.1.Ensuring effective policing:

Effective policing is a key to the functioning of any democratic system. Effective policing ensures the protection of the rights of the individual by maintaining law and order in the society. Many political thinkers have mentioned ‘force' as an essential quality of a state. This is because by the use of force in a rational manner a state can ensure protection form external aggression and can also secure internal peace. Hence, the trust of people in the state machinery can be ensured by strengthening the police system. Effective policing can not only help in the proper investigation of the offences but can also in some cases, prevent the occurrence of the offence itself.

2.2.Ensuring effective prosecution:

There is a saying, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied'. If the feeling of the denial of justice incepts in the mind of people, then the entire justice delivery system will loose it's value. To ensure complete justice, it is important to ensure effective prosecution. An effective prosecution can help the Court in disposing off the cases more rapidly and congruously.

3. Removing the other roadblocks:

Many a times it is apparently visible that effective investigation does not happen. This happens either because of the political collusion with the offenders or other reasons. Whatever be the reasons, those who pose obstruction in the way of the system must be punished. Thus, the government should make provisions for punishing the public officials who fail to do their duty effectively. Moreover, punitive measures should also be taken against the politicians found guilty of obstructing the path of justice. It is only by these means that a free, fair and impartial investigation can be ensured.

VI. Conclusion
Lynching is the gravest offence against the humanity. This crime has psychological links. The people are losing their trust and confidence in the State machinery. The inefficient investigation, rampant corruption and the delay in getting justice are some of the prominent factors behind the upheaval of these crimes. Whatsoever the reasons may be, mobocracy cannot be allowed to be a normal routine of the nation.

Allowing these type offences either through active support or through passive neglect can lead to the saturation of democracy and the installation of majoritarianism. It is time we decide whether we want rule of law or rule of mob. To prevent this it is essential that all the pubic officials perform their duty with awareness and integrity and any obstacle in the path of rule of law is treated with severity.

End-Notes:
  1. The Penal Code, 1860.
  2. The Penal Code, 1860.
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