7 PM |Preventing mob lynching|17th January 2020

Context: Mob Lynching in India.

Mob Lynching:

  • In 2018, the Supreme Court described lynching as a “horrendous act of mobocracy”.
  • As per the various bills introduced by states, ‘lynching’ means any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity.
  • Today, the Hate Crimes attract Section 153 A of IPC. It is related to fostering enmity between the people on the basis of religion, race, language etc.
  • But, registering this crime requires prior permission of the State Government. Most State Governments use this power to shield perpetrators, who are politically and ideologically connected to the ruling establishment.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain specific data with respect to lynching incidents in the country. 

Supreme Court Guidelines (2018): Expressing its abhorrence over the rising incidents of lynching across the country, the 2018 Supreme Court bench comprising the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud issued several guidelines as preventive measures. Some key guidelines are:

  • Designation by the state governments of a senior police officer, not below the rank of superintendent of police, as nodal officer (NO) in each district to function as the head of a special task force to procure intelligence reports about potential perpetuator.
  • Identification of districts/sub-divisions and/or villages, where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
  • Central and state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms, including official websites of the home department and police of states that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
  • It is the duty of the central and 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.
  • As remedial measures, the Court directed the jurisdictional police station to immediately lodge an FIR, without any undue delay.
  • The Supreme Court made it clear that cases of lynching and mob violence should be tried by designated courts/fast track courts.

Various States laws:

  • Manipur became the first to pass a law against lynching.
  • Manipur Government became the first in the country to hold public officials criminally accountable, if they fail to prevent hate crimes.
  • Police officer who fail to prevent the crime of lynching in his jurisdiction are liable to be imprisoned for a term that may extend from one to three years with a fine limit of Rs. 50000.
  • Manipur’s Anti-Lynching law laid down the duty and responsibility of the State Government to make arrangements for the protection of victims and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion, inducement, violence etc.
  • It prescribes the duty of the State officials to prevent a hostile environment against people of the community, who have been lynched.
  • The last substantial contribution of the law is requiring the state to formulate a scheme for relief camps and rehabilitation in case of displacement of victims, and death compensation.
  • Rajasthan government passed a bill against lynching in August 2019.
  • Appointment of a dedicated nodal officer: Director General of Police shall appoint a State Coordinator to prevent lynching; Every District Superintendent of Police shall be the District Coordinator.
  • Prescribing duties to the Police Officer and District Magistarte:  to prevent the creation of a hostile environment against a person or group of persons who are targeted in such incidents.
  • Offences to be cognizable, non – bailable and noncompoundable.
  • Setting up of special courts.
  • Stipulating enhanced punishments. 
  • It criminalizes acts of lynching, dissemination of offensive material and fostering of a hostile environment.
  • It also provides for relief, legal aid, compensation and rehabilitation.
  • However, unlike Manipur, this bill is silent on any action to be initiated against police officers who may be accused of dereliction of duty.
  • West Bengal brought more stringent bill against lynching.
  • The bill aims to protect the constitutional rights of vulnerable persons and prevent incidents of lynching. It also proposes action against those involved in perpetrating the crime.
  • It also calls for witness protection and compensation for victims, adding that any allegation of threat, coercion or inducement of witnesses must be brought to the notice of a court within 24 hours.
  • The legislation prescribes the appointment of a nodal officer for periodic assessment of local intelligence inputs on potential flashpoints, and mandates that lynching incidents be investigated by an officer not below the rank of an inspector.
  • The legislation also pitches for a jail term, which may vary from three years to life for those involved in assaulting and injuring a victim.
  • In case of death of the victim, persons responsible for the incident would be punished with death sentence or rigorous life imprisonment and fine up to Rs 5 lakh.

Government’s stand:

  • Government has taken steps to put restriction on this rising national crime, High level committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, Home Secretary was constituted, secondly, the central government constituted a panel headed by the Home Minister, to submit its report to Prime Minister as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court.
  • While the other steps taken are:
  • Whatsapp forwarding message has been restricted to only five chats, in order to stop the fake rumors to get spread so easily and fast.
  • MASUKA (Manav Suraksha Kanoon) a draft report proposed by national campaign against mob lynching.
  • Not in my name campaign, a campaign to raise awareness.
  • Government also favored an amendment to existing laws instead of bringing a new law. Provisions could be by including a sub sections in various sections of IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act etc.to provide a harsher punishment.

Way Forward:

  • Central government can incorporate sections in the law for penal action against doctors who stand accused of dereliction of duty, for delay in attending to victims of lynching, or submitting false reports without carrying out a proper and thorough medical examination of the victims, either under coercion by the police or due to their own prejudice against the community or religion of the victims.
  • Under the compensation scheme for the victims, the amount to be paid to the victims should be recovered from the perpetrators of the crime or collective fines be imposed on the villagers where the lynching takes place.
  • The Central government could even provide for punitive action against political leaders found guilty of inciting mobs.
  • Punitive action to be taken against police officers accused of dereliction of duty, as incorporated in the law enacted by Manipur government, could be replicated in the Central law too as it would deter police officials acting in a partisan manner in favour of the lynch mob.

Conclusion: The Constitution of India guarantees to all persons the right to life and personal liberty and the Equal protection of laws. In recent times there have been many of incidents resulting in loss of livelihood, injuries and death of persons at the hands of mob lynching. Lynching is an egregious manifestation of prejudice, intolerance, and contempt towards the rule of law. Untill a zero-tolerance attitude is adopted in dealing with mob lynching, this crime will continue to show a rising trend.Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/preventing-mob-lynching/article30577621.ece

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