Mob is the English word which means unrestrained or uncontrolled crowd. Lynching can be considered an Americo – Latin word, which means awarding the death sentence without any legal proceeding.Lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is an informal public execution by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group. It is to be considered an act of terrorism and punishable by law. 

Lynch Law, which is believed to have been started in the American village Lynchburg (Virginia) by Charles Lynch, has been the focal point of discussion from time to time in most countries of the world, especially in Mexico, Guatemala, Europe, South Africa, Israel, Afghanistan etc.

Instances of lynching and mob violence can be found in every society.These crimes take place when people get incited by hatred and anger and get ready to take law into their own hands. This violence is named as hate crimes based on the hate of people towards particular community, religion, region, caste or sex. It is very crucial to think that why the people suddenly consider a person harmful for the whole society and take such a drastic decision of killing him or her.

1. MOB LYNCHING IN INDIAN CONTEXT

The mob lynching in India has become common in recent time. Mob lynching is not a new phenomenon in India, during 1857 revolt mobs attacked British civilians, in 1947 partition mobs attacked families, individuals in villages, cities and even burned properties of people of a different religion. Lastly, mob violence during communal conflagrations, such as during Sikh Killings (1984), Christian riots (2009), Muslims Bombay riots (1992), Gujarat riots (2002), Muzaffarnagar riots (2013), and Baksa riots (2015), most recently (Bakshi and Nagarajan, 2017). There is no national law on mob lynching; however, victims have the protection of human rights and constitutional rights to get justice. 

2. REASONS AND INCIDENTS OF MOB LYNCHING

Some of the mob lynching incidents occurred in India is as per the following:

2.1 Caste and Religious motivated:

Violence on the name of caste and religion is deep-rooted in India. Presently increasing mob lynching cases are mostly result of intolerance and hatred towards other religion and caste on the name of professing, practice, traditions, and caw. In 2002, five Dalits from Haryana were lynched on the rumour of cow slaughter.In September 2015, a group of Hindu Mob had lynched Mohammad Akhlaq and his son Danish accusing them of stealing and slaughtering a cow-calf and storing the meat for consuming at Bidara village of UP.In March 2016, Mazlum Ansari and Imteyaz Khan were brutally lynched by a mob known as ‘GauRakshak’ which is cow vigilantes at a district of Jharkhand. They were accused of cattle smuggling but in reality, they had a cattle market and were selling eight oxen.

2.2 Economic and politically motivated

Economy and Politics always play a great role in mob lynching. In villages, mob lynching is the easiest way to grab land and property. Maharashtra’s Kherlanji Massacre case of 2006 was the first reported case on lynching. Around 50 villagers beat four members of the family and paraded naked wife and daughter before they murdered them due to a land dispute.On 24 January 2009, a radical outfit attacked a group of young women and men in a pub in Mangalore, claiming that the women were violating traditional Indian values.

2.3 Mob justice

Due to unawareness of legal provisions and consequences of breaching the law, less strictness from police, and slow process of legal mechanism, people of India endeavor to be judge and to do justice themselves by defining their own rules and regulations. In February 2016 the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested on sedition charges, was beaten up by lawyers while he was being produced at Patiala House Court.In June 2017, the two youths were beaten to death by a mob of at least 250 people who suspected them to be child lifter in Guwahati.

2.4 Witch Hunting

Witch-hunting is a problem in India that is wholly based on mob lynching. “Witch-hunting” includes branding a woman as a witch, mostly after an Ojha confirms that a woman is a witch, the process of prosecution and execution of that woman, often involving mass hysteria and lynching. Witch-hunting literally means molesting and killing a woman believed to have evil magic power.

 In 2014, in Jharkhand, a 50-year-old woman and her daughter were accused of practicing witchcraft, tortured and murdered by the mob. In August 2015, in Jharkhand five women accused of witchcraft lynched by villagers after dragging middle-aged women from their hut, beat them to death.In July 2015, an Adivasi woman was dragged out of her house and murdered by a mob after a local priest reportedly branded her a witch and accused her of practicing witchcraft that was “bringing ills” to the village.She was forced to swallow urine and human feces.

3. LAWS ON MOB-LYNCHING

3.1 Legislations

Mob Lynching is a heinous crime but there is no national law on mob lynching even though India has a long history on lynching. However, National legislation such as the Constitution of India, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 can be linked with the lynching offences. Section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that “persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together. 

Incidents of lynching are generally reported under section 302, IPC for murder, 307, IPC for the attempt to murder, 324, IPC for causing hurt, 147, IPC for rioting of the Indian Penal Code and so on. Provisions such as section 153A (promoting enmity between groups and acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings); and 295B (words intended to hurt religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code are considered the hate crime law in India.

The absence of hate crime law in India was acknowledged, when the Law Commission, in its Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2017, proposed insertion of a new provision, viz. 153C in the IPC, prohibiting ‘incitement to hatred’, going beyond that to incite enmity and disturb national unity. The closest thing in the Indian legal system to a hate crime law is The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act, 2015, which criminalizes violence and atrocities against Dalits and indigenous community the most marginalized of Indian society. But SC/ST Act does not cover other socially disadvantaged groups in its ambit such as religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities and the disabled.

3.2 Judicial Approach

In NandiniSundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, Court opined that “it is the duty of the States, as to strive, incessantly and consistently, to promote fraternity amongst all citizens so that the dignity of every citizen is protected, nourished and promoted. Court held that to prevent such incidents is the responsibility of the States. 

In a landmark case, it is held that “it is the responsibility of the State Administration in association with the intelligence agencies of both the State and the Centre to prevent recurrence of communal violence in any part of the State. In this case, the Supreme Court held that “Mob lynching is disrespect to the rule of law and Constitution values. We may say without any fear of contradiction that lynching by unruly mobs and barbaric violence arising out of incitement and instigation cannot be allowed to become the order of the day. Such vigilantism, be it for whatever purpose or borne out of whatever cause, has the effect of undermining the legal and formal institutions of the State and altering the constitutional order.

In Krishnamoorthy case of 2015, Supreme Court stated that “the law is the mightiest sovereign in a civilized society. 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 and in the manner in which they deem fit.” The Court observed that “no one is allowed to take law into his own hands on the fancy of his shallow spirit of judgment. Just as one is entitled to fight for his rights in law, the other is entitled to be treated as innocent till he is found guilty after a fair trial”.

InPoonawala case, comprising a three-judge bench of Chief Justice DipakMisra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud of Supreme Court recommended that the enactment of special law on mob lynching by the parliament may take place as “fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilized society”. The present writ petition was preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution to take immediate and necessary action against the cow protection groups indulging in violence.

Guidelines to curb lynching violence

In Poonawalla case, Court laid down preventive, remedial and punitive measures to deal with mob-lynching.

Preventive Measures

Court stated that in every district there should be a Nodal Officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching. A special task force must be appointed to get reports about the incidents, victims and perpetrators who spread the hate speeches and fake news. The Nodal Officer shall make efforts to eradicate a hostile environment against any community or caste which is targeted in such incidents. The Director General of Police/the Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States must be informed about the strategies to control the lynching through regular meetings with nodal officer. The Home Department of the Government of India must take initiative to implement the constitutional goal of social justice and the Rule of Law. 

The broadcast about the serious consequence of such incident on radio and television including the official websites of the Home Department should take place. The police shall cause to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having which can cause incidents of mob lynching.

Remedial Measures

The Court instructed that despite the preventive measures the incident of lynching or mob violence take place, FIR must be lodged without delay and the safety of family members of the victim must be ensured. The investigation regarding mob lynching cases must be done especially by the Nodal Officer. Fast track court must be appointed for lynching cases and mob violence.. Safeguarding the witnesses of the case must be paramount responsibility of court and police. The facilities of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to choose a legal aid advocate must be provided to victims.

Punitive Measures

Court Laid down that wherever it is found that “a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to comply with the aforesaid directions the same shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence for which appropriate action must be taken against him/her and not limited to departmental action under the service rules”.

About the author

Devansh Garg is a second-year BBA.LL.b student at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies affiliated to IP University. He has a passionate love for law and loves to read law books and journals. He had participated in many competitions and quizzes and also have won a few of them. He will stop at nothing to beat you at a game of blitz chess.

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