Supreme Courts judgment on #Lynching a hope for India
Apex Court Condemns ‘Cases of Mobocracy’, Asks Parliament To Draft New Law
The judgment pertains to a contempt petition filed by social activist Tehseen Poonawalla.& Ors. By it’s order dated 6TH September, 2017, the Apex court had asked all the states to take stern measures to stop violence in the name of cow protection. The Apex Court had sought response from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on a plea seeking contempt actions on account of non-compliance with the previous order of the Supreme Court. The Petitioners had approached the court seeking relief against the mob violence relating to cow vigilantism, asking the court to issue directions to curb such vigilante groups. However, The Chief Justice was pleased to expand the purview of the present judgment to cover other instances of lynchings as well.
Date of Ruling:
17th July, 2018
The Supreme Court of India
Type of Forum:
Condemning the ever-increasing incidents of mob lynching, especially under the garb of cow protection, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the ‘rising intolerance and growing polarisation’ prevailing in the Indian Society. The Bench expressed its agony over the clattering percussions of reported mob violence from different states of the country and the grave danger that such instances pose over the peaceful co-existence of diverse cultures. In it’s strongly-worded judgment, the Supreme Court expressed it’s dissent over the inertia of the law enforcing machinery in preventing such crimes and proceeded to give directions to the police to register an FIR under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of IPC and other applicable provisions of law against mobsters who indulge in these unlawful activities. The government’s position as expressed in court by ASG Tushar Mehta, was that existing laws were adequate to deal with such attacks. The court however thought otherwise. The Supreme Court was pleased to direct the Centre and States to take preventive measures to curb the spreading of provocative messages on social media platforms which can incite a mob to lynch. The Court prescribed the creation of a senior police post namely a Nodal Officer in each state to head a special task force dedicated to monitoring individuals involved in “spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.” Accordingly, the Court directed the states to take disciplinary action against police officials who are hesitant to take appropriate measures for prevention of mob violence despite have prior knowledge or are unwilling to initiate criminal proceedings against those involved. In addition to issuing these directions, the Supreme Court put forth a proposal for the establishment of fast track courts earmarked for this very purpose wherein such occurrences would be dealt with within six months thus intending to expedite the trial process. The Supreme Court also proposed that in order to set a stern example, in cases of mob violence and lynching, maximum punishment must be awarded to the convict. The states were asked to draw up compensation schemes for the family of the victims within a month. The States were also asked to ensure that the victims/ next of kin of the victims were provided with legal aid if they choose exercise their right to do so. The Bench ordered the Centre and the States to implement the prescribed measures and file a compliance report within 4 weeks of the date of this judgment. The Court concluded the judgment by calling upon the Parliament to bring about a new legislation which would ‘instil a sense of fear for law amongst the people who involve themselves in such kind of activities’ A hearing has been scheduled on 20th August for further directions on the matter.
Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes:
The case is an attempt by the Supreme Court to monitor and force implementation of the directions specified in it’s order dated 06.07.2017 by imposing a deadline of 4 weeks from the date of this judgment on the Centre and the States to file a compliance report.
Significance of the case:
Almost a century after Mark Twain wrote ‘The United States of Lyncherdom’ in 1901 in response to the Missouri lynching, the fairly young Indian Democracy is now basking in the shadow of a similar disgrace. In the first six months of 2017, 20 cow-terror attacks were reported which is more than 75 per cent of the 2016 figure. As seen in the Dadri Lynching case as well as the Ramgarh Lynching case, the key accused in both instances were granted bail shortly after initiation of criminal proceedings. The absence of stringent action taken against such perpetrators has been a key factor in emboldening several others to engage in similar crimes. This judgment thus plays a significant role in tying these lose ends by specifying how such matters have to be dealt with and who must be held accountable for the same. The specific directions given by the Apex Court to the police authorities will now lead to a more thorough and tactical handling of such situations by the law enforcement authorities. The direction to constitute time-bound trials will facilitate the conviction process thus eliminating chances of witness and/or evidence tampering.
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