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THE PHENOMENON OF MOB LYNCHING

Author: Varchaswa Dubey, II year of B.B.A., LL.B.(Hons.) from JECRC University, Jaipur


Introduction

The origins of the word lynching can be traced back to the American Revolution (1775-1783) and it comes from the term ‘lynch law’ which means punishment without trial[1].The barbaric crime of slaughtering of an individual in the absence of due procedure of law by a group of people who believe that the illegally executed person has done evil.


It has been said that our country’s national crime is lynching[2] which is a slap in the face of basic human rights, fundamental rights and the privileges vested in Article 21 of Constitution of India. The practice of lynching is becoming frequent and thus is a huge challenge for democratic standards.


The occurrence of lynching may not be new in Indian context yet the contemporary ascend in the cases of lynching is a subject matter of profound concern. In recent years, India has observed cataclysm in cases of mob lynching which has been appropriately elucidated by the Honorable Supreme Court judges in Tehseen S. Poonawala V. Union of India[3] as “horrendous act of mobocracy”.


In many incidents of lynching, it has been observed that rumours on social media play a vital role in abetting mob violence and most of the rumours are about either child-lifters, organ traffickers or religious concerned which may easily provoke a particular community or a group of people. The major difference between lynching in the past and present cases is the role of rumours on social media in which WhatsApp is most notable.


So the question is how can mob lynching be prevented? Whether a codified law on lynching should be enacted or a lot more is needed to be done by society and government.


Highlighted mob lynching cases in India

1. Dadri mob lynching(2015) - the incident took place on 28 September 2015 in Bisara Village(U.P.) in which local villages attacked 52-year-old Mohammed Akhlaq and thrashed him with bricks and sticks on the suspicion of beef consumption. His son, Danish was also seriously injured in the said incident. The later court found evidence that it was not beef also the state government changed the original report and held that the victim was not consuming beef.[4]

2. Jharkhand lynching case (2019) – in June 2017, Tabrez Ansari of Jharkhand was tied to the pole and was thrashed by locals for hours on the suspicion of being a thief before handing over the victim to the police. Shocking the district hospital cleared him for jail custody. After 4 days when his condition became worse, he was rushed to the district hospital where he was brought dead. The police and the hospital administration were negligent in fulfilling their duty[5].


3. Palghar lynching case (2020) – on the night of April 16, 2020, when 2 ‘sadhus’ with their driver were travelling from Mumbai to Surat. When they reached Palghar(Maharashtra) they were intercepted by local police and were kept in a police van. It was this time when locals gathered around the vehicle with sticks and rods, dragged the Sadhus and their driver out and thrashed them mercilessly in the presence of police, on the suspicion of being child abductors and organ traffickers. Later on, various video clips surfaced on social media which reflected the negligence of police in fulfilling its duty. Both the Sadhus succumbed to their injuries. Later on, the police arrested 110 people including 9 juveniles and 2 cops were suspended.


Reasons of mob lynching

1. The spread of rumours by social media- the foremost reason of the increase in the incidents of mob lynching is fake news which easily gets floated on social media and the most preferred platform for spreading fake news is ‘What’s App’. Rumours get viral in minutes and most of the time people believe in the fake rumours.


2. Cow vigilantism- the numbers of cow vigilante groups have increased after 2014 when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power and emphasized on cow slaughter laws. According to Human rights watch between May 2015 and December 2018 at least 44 people were killed including 36 Muslims were killed in such attacks[6]. Numerous people have started practising vigilantism and taking law in their own hands and the alleged person has been executed without any due process of law.


3. The silence of the political class- since India is a Hindu majority country most of the politicians keep their silence and don’t say anything about such incidents due to fear of loss of their vote back.


4. Hate speeches – statements bearing no significance except for the expression of hatred primarily in circumstances in which communication is perhaps going to incite violence. Hate speeches easily strike the mind of sensitive groups who are easily being manipulated. Most of the time hate speeches are against a certain religion, community, caste etc. E.g. violence against the Sikh community in 1984.


5. No laws on fake news- since most of the people believe in fake news easily, fake news has led to exaggerate in the cases of mob lynching. People react to fake news and thus execute an innocent. Such cybercrimes are to be stopped.


6. Failure of the state to provide security- it is a well-settled fact that the number of police in India is lesser compared to what it should be considering the population, therefore, it is very difficult for police to provide security.


7. Religiously charged mob- many a time religious people take law in their hand to provide vigilante justice considering themselves as the protector of their religion.


Legal Aspects

Mob lynching is not an ordinary crime as held in Krishna Murthy v Siva Kumar and ors.[7] “the law, the mightiest sovereign in a civilized society” no one is allowed to take law in their own hands on the fancy of his shallow spirit of judgment thus it is evident that execution of individual cannot be exercised anywhere and therefore a codified law on mob lynching may act as a relief to the victims.


On 23rd July 2018, the Government of India as an outcome of Supreme Court directive established a high-level committee to curb mob lynching (Rajiv Gauba Committee) also Group of Minister was set up to make recommendations for penal provisions for incidents of mob lynching. The group of ministers consists of External Affairs, road transport, law and justice minister.


To curb mob lynching we have legal provisions but not a codified law. The IPC does not contain the word ‘lynching’ however in the contemporary world whenever a person is arrested on the allegations of lynching he can be charged with certain sections like Section 149 (each member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object), Section 302(Murder) read with Section 34 (common intention), Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 146(rioting), Section (153A) whenever a person is lynched on the grounds of being of a different group, religion, place of birth, language etc.

After the Supreme Court’s directives, Manipur was the first state to enact the law on lynching known as “The Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Ordinance, 2018 followed by West Bengal known as “West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019” and in Rajasthan known as “Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill” in 2019. Just like these states, there is a need to enact a law which will provide uniform rules, regulations, norms, definition, punishment and compensation throughout the country.


In Nandini Sundar and Others v. State of Chhattisgarh[8] court held that it is the duty and responsibility of the state to curb internal disturbance and promote fraternity so that the dignity of each individual is protected and nourished. In Mohammed Haroon and others v. Union of India[9], it was held that it is the responsibility of the state along with its intelligence agencies to prevent the occurrence of communal violence and if any officer is found negligent in fulfilling his duty he/she is to be brought within the ambit of the law.


There is no doubt that administration which is responsible for maintaining law and order has the principle duty to see that vigilantism of any kind does not take place wherever. Under Article 355 of the Constitution of India it has been stated that the Union must protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance.


In 2018, the Supreme Court of India in its landmark case pronounced lynching as “horrendous acts of mobocracy” and laid down certain guidelines which are to be followed by states to further prevent the incidents of mob lynching in Tahseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India[10]

Suggestions

1) Acquaint citizens with a public awareness campaign and with mass media about lynching and to curb the spread of false information and messages, video clips, other material which are likely to create an outburst of anger and provoke mob violence and social disorder.


2) The perpetrators spreading fake news, messages etc. are to be identified and heavy procedural punishments are to be awarded to set an example that any kind of fake news won’t be entertained.


3) The law enforcing agencies must abide by the Court’s directive and take efficient steps to curb mob violence since this is an affront to the rule of law. The government mechanism shouldn’t allow any infringement by the mob and law administration.


4) Enacting a codified law which will be enforced throughout the country is a need of an hour since a codified law on lynching will provide the uniform definition, rules and regulations, punishments, compensation etc. throughout the nation.


5) Mass and Media are to be restricted as most of the people believe everything they hear to be true which results in people reacting out of anger and hatred towards other religions.


6) Activities of people on social media is to be verified considering that they do not share or see any content relating to mob violence and lynching to an extent which does not breach the privacy of social media users.


Conclusion

India has witnessed many cases of mob violence and lynching in recent years reports from many parts of the country majority of which were a consequence of beef ban by the government. Certainly, there is no room for mob violence mechanisms in democracy and any circumstances, the law cannot be taken in one’s hand. It is an individual’s social and national responsibility in the country that instead of mindlessly coupling with the mob without the knowledge of objectives of the mob, it’s better to resolve it. This is the pressing priority of the hour.


Given the contemporary scenario of mob lynching and violence, there is a need for separate legislature and strict enforcement of laws throughout the country. Though some states have enacted their act for their state to curb lynching if a codified act is passed and ratified, it will benefit the whole nation’s judiciary and executive administration to hold the perpetrators guilty and grant compensation to the victim(s) of lynching without any chaos and disorder. The foremost and immediate need is to enact and codify law.

It is not only the responsibility of the court or central and state government but also a constitutional duty of every individual in this nation to create and maintain a sense of fraternity, harmony and brotherhood among all the people in the absence of discrimination on the grounds of religion, community, class etc. The same spirit should also be in all the people who slaughter cows under the guise of the slaughterhouse.


Another reason for mob violence is hate speeches delivered by politicians to target their rivalries and gain votes. The speeches carry hatred which highly influences the innocent crowd and tend to spread anger and intolerance which usually results in the lynching. The person who delivers such speeches should also be held responsible for inciting the crowd under relevant sections of IPC and the fundamental rights vested in Article 19(A) of Constitution of India should be filtered and some restrictions should be imposed so that no one waves off this right as a defence in the court of law.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching

[2] https://ndigo.com/2020/05/27/

[3] (2018) 9 SCC 501

[4] https://cjp.org.in/lynching-timeline/

[5] https://thewire.in/communalism/tabrez-ansari-jharkhand-lynching-district-report

[6] https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/18/india-vigilante-cow-protection-groups-attack-minorities

[7] (2015) 3SCC 467

[8] 2011 7 SCC 547

[9] 2014 5 SCC 252

[10] 2018 9 SCC 501


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