Mob lynching in India

On 16th April 2020, the most highlighted mob lynching incident took place in the district of Maharashtra known as Palghar. Two Sandhu with the driver (Their names were Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri (70), Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) and Naresh Yelgade.) was lynched by a mob of around 400 people at night when they were travelling for a funeral to Gujarat and decided to take a shorter way which goes through the Palghar district. The Gadchinchle village is entirely an Adivasi area and is extremely backward where this incident took place. The three were murdered by the mob in front of the police as they claim that they were helpless because of the number of violent people present there.
For the last few weeks in the lockdown period, false and mischievous WhatsApp messages were being circulated not only in this area but also in hundreds of tribal villages of Palghar district. They conveyed that robbers were on the prowl, they would not only rob but also spit in wells to spread the Coronavirus and worse still would like child-lifting to harvest their kidneys. As a result, regular night vigils were kept by the people in several villages to stop any such intruders. Roadblocks were erected outside several villages. The people in the whole area were full of fear, hate, and tension. The lockdown and the resultant serious problems of livelihood like lack of income and food aggravated the situation. Similar incidents that happened in the district a few days before this incident were that of a local activist Dr Vishwa and his team along with the Additional SP. According to the official statement of the police, a team of police officers was sent specifically to pacify the mob but by that time the mob had already turned the car and even threatened the policeman.
Mob Lynching is a hideous inhuman form of punishment in which the purported accused is attacked by a mob/large number of people as they believe it to be the form of punishment for doing something wrong. The mob takes the law in their hand by killing or grievously Injuring the purported accused which often leads to death or suffering of innocents. Aptly referred to by the Hon’ble Supreme Court as a ‘horrendous act of mobocracy’ mob lynching has a pattern and a motive.
1In July 2017, the Supreme Court, while pronouncing its judgment in the case of Tahseen s. Poonawala v. UOI 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 lynching. 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. The issue is being neglected for quite some time even tho every year there are at least 2 cases related to mob lynching.

Mob violence is an obnoxious slur on our legal system. It stems from the perverse notion of vigilantism and leads to anarchy. Such excrescence needs to be curbed with an iron hand. Law is that the mightiest sovereign in a very civilized society. The majesty of law can’t be bullied just because an individual or a group of persons generate the attitude that has been empowered by the principles in law in law to take its enforcement into their own hands and gradually become a law unto themselves and punishes the violator on their assumption and in the manner in which they deem fit (Krishnamoorthy v. Sivakumar and others (2015) 3 SCC 467). The rule of law has to be upheld for any civilized society to endure.
3Punishment for lynching under the protection of lynching act, 2017 (Not yet enacted)

  • 7 years of jail or up to one lakh penalty or both. (minor Injury)
  • 10 years of jail or up to three lakh penalty or both. (grievous injury)
  • Life imprisonment or up to ten lakh penalty or both (death of the person)
  • In the case of Mohd. Haroon and others v. Union of India and another a writ petition was filed concerning the riots erupted in and around District Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh as a result of communal tension because of which people had to leave their homes due to fear. The petitioners said that the local administration didn’t enforce the law but allowed the congregation to take place negligently and failed to monitor its proceedings. It was held that the victims of mob violence cannot be discriminated against based on community or religion. The relief of rehabilitation and compensation should be given to all communities. The Supreme Court held that it is the duty 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. If any officer responsible for maintaining law and order is found negligent, he/she should be brought within the ambit of the law.
    Currently punishment for lynching is given under Section 302, 304, 307, 323, 325, 34, 120 B, 143,147, 149 of the Indian penal code. Section 302 talks about murder, while Sec 307 talks about an attempt to murder, 323 causing voluntary hurt, and 149 talks about unlawful assembly.
    Manav Suraksha Kanoon which is also known as MASUK was made in India. The Protection from Lynching Act 2017 bill was drafted by a group of lawyers and activists. In this act, lynching was defined for the first time and it also made it a non-bailable offence. This bill highlighted the time-bound inquiry into specific lynching incidents. The bill also mentions special courts for lynching cases where the victims could have access to legal aid. It also brings under the purview of the public officials should be taken to trial, if at all they have failed to prevent the incident. What happened in the Palghar issue was that the police officers were later suspended for not sending enough force as 5 inspectors were not enough of 200 people and not taking proper action even after a similar incident happened a few days back.
    A Landmark Case for the offence of lynching is the case of this Tehseen Poonawalla vs Union of India and others. In this case, the Supreme court with the bench of 5 judges gave some guidelines which would help in preventing lynching and also steps to be taken if such an issue or such an offence is

taking place in a particular area. The supreme court has described lynching as a horrendous act of mobocracy.
Many states like that of Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Manipur have passed the law in the State legislation for lynching but the approval of the President of India is yet to be given for the implementation of these laws. Such cases continue to take place in our country even after the Supreme court judgment. Many attacks even take place on the occasions like Ram Navami in Bihar and West Bengal. On topics such as offering Namaz and in places like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh because people feel someone looks too much like a Muslim.
India needs to have proper implementation by a way of Bill or an act against lynching we can also refer to the lynching laws across the world. For instance, we can take the dyer anti-lynching bill which was passed in the US.
This bill talks about how lynching comes under federal felony and also the punishments that should be given to the people to take part or do such an offence against someone.
Some of the punishments are rigorous imprisonment along with the fine. Along with prosecution against the officers in charge in federal court if they fail to prevent such an instance. Even foreign visitors are to be prosecuted if found to be a part of the same.
At the same time after the Palghar incident, we can say that the cybersecurity should increase so that rumours cannot be spread on platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter which will see that the public does not get panicked about such a situation. The authorities need to enforce more strict laws in such districts and not ignore such incidents if they have occurred in the past.
The Palghar incident could have been taken in control and all the people in charge could have deployed more of the people from the police force to stop the mob.
There cannot be an investigation, trial, or punishment of any nature on the streets. The process of adjudication takes place within the hallowed precincts of the courts of justice and not on the streets or by the public. No one has the right to become the guardian of law claiming that he/she has to protect the law by not following the right path of justice. The Palghar incident is still a big question mark after the death of the lawyer who met with an accident on the way to court.

Yashu Mishra
Yashu Mishra

TY-BBA.LLB Student at MIT-WPU School of law