Editorial Explained: Rule of mob – On mob lynching in several States


Recently, there was an incident where three people were lynched by a mob who were alleged to be cattle thieves and suspected to Bangladeshi nationals in Karimganj district Assam.

National Crime Record’s Bureau data on crime

  • The 2017 NCRB data revealed that Assam has one of the highest crime rates in the country.
  • The State had 143 registered crimes per lakh of population, but such numbers can often be misleading due to the arbitrariness in the registration of crimes.
  • Since 2012, as many over 100 of incidents of mob lynching have been reported from across the length and breadth of the country.
  • The Status of Policing Report 2019 states that 35-40% of junior police personnel believe it is natural for mobs to punish culprits in cases of kidnapping, rape, cow slaughter and road accidents.

Reasons for increase in incidents of mob lynching in India

  • Malicious dissemination of false accusations: Anecdotal trends suggest a spike in mob lynchings in recent years, often incited by malicious dissemination of false accusations of cow slaughter, kidnapping of children and theft, through social media.
  • Lack of action from Police Officials: 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.
  • Inefficiency of Laws available to act against Mob Lynching: The current laws of the Indian Penal Code [in section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing voluntary hurt), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and 149 (unlawful assembly)] are not enough to tackle the menace of mob lynching.

Impact of Mob Lynchings in India or Need of Mob Lynching Laws in India

  • Targeting Minority Communities or Vulnerable Groups: The victims are invariably from vulnerable groups.
  • Failure of law enforcement: Lynchings are a uniquely unsettling derailment of governance i.e. 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.
  • Defaming the country: The lynchings are an abomination that must have no place in a democratic society and mob indeed defames the country.
  • Presence of Vigilantism and leading to Anarchy: Mob violence is an obnoxious slur on our legal system and it stems from the perverse notion of vigilantism and leads to anarchy.

Uttar Pradesh Law Commission Report on Mob Lynching

  • It recommended immediate enactment of a law as per recommendations made by the Supreme Court in 2018.
  • It recommended a punishment ranging from seven years to life imprisonment for the offence.
  • The commission specified the responsibilities of police officers and District Magistrates and spelt out the punishment for failing in their duty.
  • The law should also provide for compensation to the family of the victim for grievous injury or loss of life and property.
  • There should also be provisions for the rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

Supreme Court guidelines on Mob Lynching

  • The Supreme Court has observed that “extra-judicial” acts like “cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism” and lynchings should be nipped in the bud.
  • It passed guidelines to the Centre and the states such as fast-tracked trials, victim compensation, deterrent punishment and disciplinary action against lax law-enforcing officials.
  • Appointment of Senior Police Officer against mob lynching cases: The states shall designate a senior police officer not below the rank of police superintendent as nodal officer in each district for taking measures to prevent mob violence and lynching.
  • Addressing the regions of increasing Mob Lynching incidents: 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.
  • Regular meeting of the Nodal Officers: The nodal officer shall hold regular meetings with the local intelligence units in the districts and station house officers to identify tendencies of vigilantism and mob violence.
  • Police to ensure dispersal of mobs: All police officers will have to ensure the dispersal of mobs that have a tendency to cause violence or lynch in the garb of vigilantism or otherwise.
  • Collaboration between Centre and States: It will be the duty of the Centre and the states to curb the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on social media platforms.

Challenges in implementation of Anti-Mob Lynching Laws

  • Arbitrariness in the Registration of Crimes: The data registered by NCRB related to crime in each state is often misleading due to arbitrariness in the registration of crimes.
  • Varying standards of prosecution in states: The varying standards of prosecution of crimes across the country add further challenges to the rule of law.
  • Prevalence of idea of instant justice: The idea ‘instant’ justice is immensely popular, and its acceptance even higher if the perceived crime is allegedly committed by a person belongs to a minority community.

Measures to adopted to curb Mob Lynching in India

  • Stringent intervention by Police: In order to curb the menace of mob lynching there must be stringent intervention by the police.
  • Strong Political Leadership: The political leadership also has a role to play in questioning the social consent that allows mob violence.
  • Requirement of National Law against Mob Lynching: There are various states which have made their decision to introduce legislation against mob lynching; India is in need of a national law to tackle the menace of mobocracy.
  • Collaboration and building trust in Judicial System: The dismantling of mob requires collaboration which indeed requires people to trust the justice system to ensure that criminals will be punished through due process.
  • Designation of cases to district courts: The cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated courts in each district.

Way Forward

  • Law is the mightiest sovereign in a civilized society and the majesty of law cannot be sullied simply because an individual or a group generate the attitude that they have been empowered by the principles set out in law to take its enforcement into their own hands and gradually become law unto themselves and punish the violator on their own assumption.
  • Until and unless there is a realisation, coupled with accountability, that punishing the culprit, no matter how grave and heinous the alleged crime, is not the duty of the citizens, let alone the mob, there won’t be any pause in cases of lynchings.

Source: The Hindu

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