Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Lynching also known as vigilante violence refers to the hate inspired violence against the victims. It is an extrajudicial punishment to punish a person alleged to have committed a crime. Merriam Webster dictionary describes lynching as, “Putting to death by mob action without legal approval”. Vocabulary.com describes lynching as putting to death of a person through mob action without recourse to the law – “an unlawful murder by an angry mob of people”.
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. Aptly referred to by the hon’ble Supreme Court as a ‘horrendous act of mobocracy’ mob lynchings have a pattern and a motive. More often than not, innocent people are targeted on the basis of some rumor, misinformation or suspicion.
Lynchings originated in the 19th century America, where white mobs lynched black Americans if they crossed any historically embedded hierarchical boundary and to instill a sense of fear amongst them. In India, one of the first such incidence took place on 10th June 2012 where activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) and gowshala sangh damaged the factory and burnt the houses of its owners when 25 carcass (similar to that of cows) were found near their factory and were suspected to have killed them. The next incidence that gathered a lot of attention took place in Dadri on 28th September 2015 when Mohammad Akhlaq and his son were dragged out of their home and were beaten to death by a mob of around 2000 people on suspicion that they stole and slaughtered a cow calf.
Current status of law relating to mob violence in India.
Presently there is no special provision or law to punish mob lynchings or hate violence in India but there are some other provisions related to such violence. >The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) under Section 223(a) provides that the mob involved in same offence in the same act can be tried together. >The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 also has some proximate sections related to hate speech and hate crimes under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153B (imputation, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505(statements conducing to public mischief)1
As seen in majority of the cases, these sections weren‟t imposed upon the perpetrators and only sections against individuals such as Section 302(punishment for murder), 307(attempt to murder), 323(punishment for causing hurt), 325(punishment for causing grievous hurt) etc. are applied because of which the crime is seen as a n offence against individual and not the community.
However the courts have started taking the cognizance and heinousness of the offence as it can be seen in the Supreme Court‟s judgment in the case of Nandini Sundar v. State of Chhattisgarh1 the court held that it is the responsibility of the state to prevent internal disturbance and to take steps to 1 (2011)7 SCC 547 7 ensure public order. The same has been provided under Article 355 of the constitution which places the duty on the Union to protect states against any external aggression or internal disturbance. Reasons behind mob lynching
The reason behind commission of an act of mob violence cannot be attributed to one factor as many factors can contribute towards such violence.
Two monks and their driver by a mob in Palaghar, Maharashtra. Little did the trio, who was enroute to Surat from Mumbai in order to attend a funeral, know it to be their last journey on this terrestrial terrain. At a time when we are reeling under a crisis of unprecedented magnitude owing to Covid-19 and the authorities are repeatedly emphasizing on the significance of social distancing the question is why was such a huge mob (consisting of around 200 people), armed with axes, sticks and stones, allowed to congregate. A similar incident had occurred there four days prior to this incident and a lady doctor’s car had been pelted with stones. There were rumors of child lifters making rounds in that area with intent to kidnap children for organ harvesting.
It is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to not only register the FIR after the commission of some incident but also ensure that people don’t resort to vigilantism and take law in their own hands. Police should have identified the pattern of violence within their jurisdiction and acted accordingly.2
In July 2017, the Supreme Court, while pronouncing its judgment in the case of Tahseen s. Poonawala v. UOI (WP(C) No. 754/2016), had laid down several preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with lynching and mob violence. States were directed to set up designated fast track courts in every district to exclusively deal with cases involving mob lynchings. 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. 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. The tepid response of states was extremely disappointing. As of now only three states Manipur, West Bengal and Rajasthan have enacted laws against mob lynching.3
Mob lynching may happen because of various reasons like, witch hunting because of which more than 2000 mentally challenged women were lynched for rumours that alleged them of stealing and murdering children, communal conflagrations as in the 1984 Anti- Sikh riots or anti-Muslim riots of Gujarat in 2002 or inter-faith relations like the lynching of Ghulam Mohammad in July‟17 by Hindu Yuva Vahini because of his relations with a Hindu girl in the neighbourhood, an individual or a group cannot take the enforcement of laws into their own hands and gradually become law unto themselves and punish the violator on their own assumption and in the manner in which they deem fit in their shallow understanding of justice. Of late, lynchings and vigilante attacks have become the instrument of choice for violence against minorities – particularly Muslims. Vigilante attacks and lynchings are different to „communal riots‟. These are episodic acts of violence, of a localised kind, not mass; targeting individuals or groups of individuals, led mostly by decentralised groups, acting as vigilantes, affiliated to violent antiminority groups, in some cases, acting with the authority of the state. Lynchings have taken place with regularity recently, threatening to grow into a “national epidemic”. As a result, “Indian Muslims are learning to endure an intense sense of foreboding – a lurking, unnamed, unspoken fear - the persisting danger of imminent violence, of being vulnerable to attack anywhere - on a public road, in a bus or train, in a marketplace, even in their homes - only for looking and being Muslim”. (Kaarwan-e-Mohabbat)
1 Indian penal Code ,Code of criminal
3 Aman Gupta MOB LYNCHING, THE CONUNDRUM OF INSTANT JUSTICE - National Law University, Jodhpur, The World Journal on Juristic Polity Jan‟18
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