Supreme Court lists steps to control mob violence

Author-Jyotika Aggarwal, [Army Institute Of Law, Mohali]

Mob violence, also known as lynching, is a form of informal administration of justice upon an apprehended offender through violence in extreme forms. It is carried out in the public, by a group of people who met out torture and corporal mutilation upon the supposed criminal. There exists a term called lynch law which refers to a self-constituted judicial setup where presumably justice is rendered, without any involvement of the legal guidelines. Mob violence can be referred to riots, vandalism and destruction caused during a public event in the name of religion, or any field having the conflict of interest.

In the wake of the increasing number of mob lynching and mob violence at an alarming rate in the nation, the Supreme Court on 1st October 2018 advanced certain guidelines to be observed by the State. The country has been a witness to almost sixteen killings in the last two months itself, in which 22 lives have been lost. There have been cases where mobs have attacked innocent people under the impression that these people are public offenders. Social media sights are indirectly heavily contributing to such misunderstandings. In a recent incident which occurred in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, five people were wrongfully labelled as a gang of child lifters due to rumours on social media, leading to their undue execution by the villagers. Almost 20 crore Indians use Wats App, which has aggravated lynching by 4.5 times the rate a few years ago, leading to India being tagged as “Lynchistan”.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud presented a long list of precautions to be undertaken in order to bring down the alerting rates of lynching. The bench has ordered that in case a group carries out violence in the public, the leader or head of such a group has to present himself in the nearest police station for questioning within 24 hours of the inception of the incident holding, “In instances where a group or organization has staged a protest or demonstration resulting in violence and damage to property, leaders and office bearers should physically present themselves for questioning on their own within 24 hours in the police station within whose jurisdiction the violence and damage occurred. Any such person(s) failing to present himself or herself in such manner without any sufficient reason should be proceeded against as a suspect and legal process initiated forthwith, including for being declared absconding in accordance with the law.”

The Court on Monday stated that any individual or group of individuals causing vandalism and destruction to life and property during cultural programmes or other such events will be liable to pay compensation to the people adversely affected by such miscarriage of activities. CJI Misra said, “…administration of law can only be done by law-enforcing agencies recognized by law. Nobody has the right to become a self-appointed guardian of the law and forcibly administer his or her interpretation of the law on others… Mob violence runs against the very core of our established legal principles…

Further, the Government has been suggested to maintain a cyber information portal to continuously monitor the outbreaks of violence in various areas. The judges have also held that people in possession of lethal weaponry and such other destructive machinery have to be interrogated and inspected appropriately in a manner which efficiently eliminates apprehension of any unforeseen danger. The Court has recommended the appointment of Response Teams at, especially vulnerable areas to control sudden outbreaks of violence in such areas. Moreover, the Court has proposed designation of nodal officers to curtail inception of such events and also for the officers to take help of the internet to spread instant messages on social media to initiate rescue operations. The officers must make video graphs of the scenes and also instantly file an FIR under Section 153A of the IPC, failing which, disciplinary action might be taken against them. Lastly, the Court suggested fast track day to day trials and sentencing maximum punishment to offenders along with effective policing and prosecution.

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