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Mob Lynching: Horrendous Act Of Mobocracy

The spate of incidents of lynching over the past few years has led to a heightened sense of insecurity among the marginalised communities. Lynching is carried in the name of religion or because of the spread of rumours. In this context, the Supreme Court in 2018 described lynching as a "horrendous act of mobocracy" and laid down guidelines for the Centre and State governments to frame laws specifically to deal with the crime of lynching. In pursuance of this, the Manipur government came up first with its Law against lynching in 2018.

Mob lynching is a term used to describe the acts of targeted violence by a large group of people. The violence is tantamount to offences against human body or property-both public as well as private. The mob believes that they are punishing the victim for doing something wrong (not necessarily illegal) and they take the law in their own hands to punish the purported accused without following any rules of law.

Causes for Mob Lynching:

  1. Intolerance:
    People are intolerant in accepting the acts of law and go on to punish the alleged person assuming the act to be immoral.
  2. Biases:
    Biases based on various identities like caste, class, religion, etc: mob lynching is a hate crime that is rising due to the biases or prejudices among various castes, classes of people, and religions.
  3. Rise of Cow Vigilante:
    It is one of the crucial reasons that agitate the growing rise in mob lynching activities.
  4. Lack of Speedy Justice:
    Inefficient working of justice rendering authorities is the primary reason why people take law into their own hands and have no fear of the consequences.
  5. The Inefficiency of Police Administration
    Police officers play an important role in protecting the life of the people and maintaining harmony among the people but due to their ineffective investigation procedure, this hate crime is rising day by day.

Types of Mob-lynching:

Mob-Lynching based on the causes can be classified into six types. They are:

  1. Communal based
  2. Witchcraft
  3. Honour killing
  4. Bovine-related mob lynching
  5. Suspicion of Child lifting
  6. Theft cases

Related Issues:
  • Mob lynching is a violation of human dignity, Article 21 of the Constitution, and a gross infringement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Such incidents violate the Right to Equality and Prohibition of discrimination, which are enshrined in Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India.
  • However, it is nowhere mentioned in the law of the land and is hence simply put as murder since it has not been yet incorporated under the Indian Penal Code.

Related Steps Taken:
Preventive Measures:
In July 2017, the Supreme Court in the case of Tahseen s. Poonawala v. UOI had laid down several preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with lynching and mob violence. The Supreme Court in this case aptly referred to mob lynching as a 'horrendous act of mobocracy.'

Designated Fast Track Courts:
States were directed to set up designated fast track courts in every district to exclusively deal with cases involving mob lynchings.

Special Task Force:
The court had also mooted the setting up of a special task force with the objective of procuring intelligence reports about the people involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news which could lead to mob lynchings.

Victim Compensation Schemes:
Directions were also issued to set up Victim compensation schemes for relief and rehabilitation of victims. A year later in July 2019 the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and several states asking them to submit the steps taken by them towards implementing the measures and file compliance reports. As of now only three states Manipur, West Bengal and Rajasthan have enacted laws against mob lynching. The Jharkhand Assembly has passed Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021 recently.

The Supreme Court's Guidelines:

  1. The state governments shall designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
  2. The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
  3. The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the Director General of Police (DGP) any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence-related issues.
  4. It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, which, in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise.
  5. The Central and the state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
  6. Curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence. Register FIR under relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate such messages.
  7. State governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme.
  8. Ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victims.
  9. If a police officer or an officer of the district administration fails to do his/her duty, the same will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence for which an appropriate action must be taken against him/her.

Punishment for the Offense of Mob-Lynching:

In our country, there is no explicit law or legal provision dealing with lynching or mob violence. However, the following statutes, which are currently part of the Indian Penal Code, provide for the punishment of mob lynching:
  • Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the penalty for murder. It said that anyone who commits murder will be punished with either life imprisonment or death. In many circumstances, the convict may face further punishment.
  • Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the punishment for negligent homicide that does not equal to murder.
The Following Are Examples Of Possible Punishments:
  1. Life Imprisonment
  2. For the crime done or likely to cause the death of a person, the defendant can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined accordingly.
    • Section 325 of the IPC outlines the penalty for causing serious bodily harm to another person willfully. Under the provisions of this section, a person who causes serious harm voluntarily, except in the case of provocation (as defined in section 335), is likely to be punished by imprisonment for a term of up to seven years and a fine.
    • Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code describes the penalties for parties who conspire to commit a crime together. It specifies that:
      1. If the offender conspires for an offense punishable by life imprisonment, death, or a sentence of two years or more in prison, the offender will be punished in the same way as if the offender abets the offender while committing the offense.
      2. If the offender conspires to commit a crime that is not punishable by death, life imprisonment, or a sentence of more than two years in prison, the offender faces up to six months in prison, a fine, or both if the crime is not punishable by death, life imprisonment, or a sentence of more than two years in prison.

Government Have No Record:
In response to a question, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said the government, through audio-visual media, has generated public awareness to curb the menace of mob lynching. The government has also sensitised service providers to take steps to check the propagation of false news and rumours having potential to incite mob violence and lynching, Rai said. He said the Centre has issued advisories to state governments and union territory administrators on July 23, 2019 and September 25, 2019 for taking measures to curb incidents of mob lynching in the country.

"National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) publishes crime data received from all the states/union territories under various crime heads defined under the Indian Penal Code and special and local laws. No separate data on persons killed or injured by vigilante groups or mobs or crowds is maintained by NCRB," he said. Rai said police and public order are state subjects under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, and state governments are responsible for prevention, detection, registration and investigation of crime and for prosecuting criminals through their law enforcement agencies.

Way Forward:
Lynching has become a social menace all across India, therefore the centre should come with the law to deal with it.

The law should incorporate the following provisions:
  1. It should be applicable to all hate crimes, not just lynching (for example honour killing), regardless of the numbers of persons who participate.
  2. Since the essence of what distinguishes these kinds of crimes is not the numbers of attackers but the motivation of hate behind the crimes, therefore, the law should provision dealing with solitary hate crimes.
  3. The law needs to prescribe a much more expansive framework of mandatory gender-sensitive reparation.
  4. The law should incorporate penal action against doctors who stand accused of dereliction of duty, for the delay in attending to victims of lynching.
  5. Under the compensation scheme for the victims, the amount should be recovered from the perpetrators of the crime.
  6. Lynchings are an abomination that must have no place in a democratic society, which India prides itself to be.
  7. Lynchings are a uniquely unsettling derailment of governance � while an act of mob violence is itself a sign of failure of law enforcement, it is committed in an apparent consideration that there can be no legal recourse.
  8. In a pathological subversion of principles, the police inaction in cases of mob violence is reciprocated by an apparent public sanction of extrajudicial punishments by the police.
  9. All this bodes ill for the country. Mob violence indeed defames the country and there must be stringent intervention by the police to bring an end to this.
  10. The political leadership also has a role to play in questioning the social consent that allows mob violence.
  2. Supreme Court in the case of Tahseen s. Poonawala v. UOI
  9. Mushirul Hasan and Asim Roy, 2005, Living Together Separately: Cultural India in History and Politics, Oxford University Press, pp. 132, 133, 135, 139, 143, 145
  10. Govind Sadashiv Ghurye, 1968, Social tensions in India, Popular Prakashan, pp. 305,306
  11. Barbara D. Metcalf; Thomas R. Metcalf, 2012, A Concise History of Modern India, Cambridge University Press, pp. 152,153

Written By: Prof.Shaikh Moeen Shaikh Naeem
- School of Law, ITM University, Gwalior
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 7776878784

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