The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 3rd of July, 2018 stated that mob lynching is a crime no matter what the motive is and that it is a law and order issue and is the responsibility of state governments to prevent such incidents. This means that whether a lynching happens as a result of cow vigilantism or because people believe someone is a child abductor, it doesn’t matter – lynching is a crime. Further the Hon’ble Court has stated that it plans to issue guidelines to the Centre as well as to all the States on how to deal with this issue. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has taken this step after various reports of mob lynching taking place in India. Incidents of mob lynching have occurred across the country predominantly in the State of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Haryana, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Question arises what is this mob lynching? Is it a way of expression of people’s anger? Is mob lynching a pre-planned act? Why has it become a sort of acceptable way of treating those alleged of having committed a crime or an offence? Whether the alleged crime is legally proved? Does the laxity of the authorities and protectors of law and order has caused mob lynching becoming the new theory of punishment? Is this the way a democratic country will now deal with the offenders? What society are we headed to become? What values are being passed on to the younger generation? Is it being projected that laws can take a back seat and to get justice laws should necessarily to be taken into hands by the people?
Mob lynching can be defined as crowd of people who want to kill someone without a trial, because they believe that person has committed a crime. Thus the crowd condemns and punishes the person without a fair trial. In India the people who are victims of mob lynching particularly belong to those of minority community, the disadvantaged and vulnerable section of our society, individuals who have been victims of “Cow Vigilantism”, individuals who have been accused of petty crimes, human trafficking, child lifters, individuals who are perceived by the mob as deviants.
Mr. Harsh Mander, a social activist and Director of Centre of Equality Studies, has recorded various incidents of lynching during his journey- Karwan e Mohabbat (a caravan of love). He has stated that there is a particular pattern in the way lynching is done. Huge cruelty is done on the victims. They are killed with their ears cut off, eyes are pulled out, and private parts are mutilated. Mob lynching leads to a stage of dehumanisation of the person.
What is also crucial to note is that every such incidents are videotaped and circulated via social media and internet, WhatsApp and Facebook. This act is done in a way to spread a message that any wrong or offence will not be tolerated and if committed that person will have to face the same consequences as shown in the video. “Rumours”, where sources of authority is not legitimate and is a doubtful truth, send on WhatsApp have also played a role in incidents of mob lynching. This is because it builds up hatred amongst the people. This is definitely disturbing and is highly unacceptable in democratic India. It calls for immediate steps to be taken by the concerned authorities such as filter of news and videos.
Question arises- What makes people lynch a person? What is the psychological state of the perpetrators? Professor David Livingstone Smith of New England University and author of the seminal book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others has stated that people who commit such acts of violence often see themselves as greater than ordinary human beings, and this creates a kind of distance between them that allows violence to take place. He has further stated that “when we dehumanise others, we think of them as less than human. That is, we think of them as having a lower status than ourselves, which gives us permission to treat them as lesser beings.” Thus the attackers see themselves as “higher” beings and the victims outside their group as “lower” beings who may be abused or killed.”
Lynching has become a matter of concern because it has made people intolerant, develop hatred towards others and take laws in their hands. It is argued by the people that such act is done to help better implementation of the laws and help the police authorities nab the criminals. Agreed with the fact that it is responsibility of each and every person to be lawful and not violate laws, to perform all the duties as laid down under the Indian Constitution and to cooperate and help the police machinery. But as the saying goes two wrongs cannot make one right, just like that by hitting and taking laws in the hands no justice can be done, no help is done to the police or to the people at large. As per the laws the normal course of action is that if a person is suspected of committing a crime then people must hand over that person to the police. This is provided under Section 43 of Criminal Procedure Code- (Arrest by private person and procedure on such arrest). This certainly does not mean that the person should be beaten up to death and then handed over. Lynching a person without any proof, without hearing him or giving a chance to be heard itself violates that basic natural right of every person i.e. right to be heard (Audi alteram partem meaning “listen to the other side”, or “let the other side be heard as well”). Acts of lynching also violates Constitutional and other statutory laws.
In India, there is no specific law for mob lynching. Those arrested are charged under various Sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) such as under section 302 of IPC which defines punishment for murder, Section 304 of IPC which deals with Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder, Section 307 of IPC which deals with attempt to Murder, Section 323 of IPC which deals with punishment for voluntarily causing hurt, Section 325 of IPC which deals with punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Section 34 of IPC which defines common intention, Section 141 of IPC which deals with unlawful assembly, Section 147 and 148 of IPC which deals with rioting and its punishment, Section 120B of IPC which deals with criminal conspiracy.
It can be stated without doubt that lynching of individuals by a mob is like acting as an executor of an extrajudicial punishment. The people involved in lynching believe that they can get away because of the security provided by the mob itself. Therefore there needs to be enacted severest punishment for acts of lynching.
After the incident of lynching the normal course of action found is people are arrested, the victim’s family is given compensation, police is accused of covering up the issue, reaching the place of incident late and not taking timely action- stopping the lynching and controlling the mob. The police also register cases against the victim as he is alleged of committed an offence or a crime. The political parties are seen as accusing and blaming each other of not taking any action. What is unfortunate, is that no concrete actions or discussions are done in order to prevent or find solutions for stopping such kinds of incidents from taking place in future.
Mob Lynching should be stopped as it promotes violence and hatred. It is a serious crime and should not be taken lightly by the authorities. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) should come up with the data of mob lynching in India. We only have record of IndiaSpend which talks about the lynching relating to the cow-related violence. The data will help the authorities to take constructive actions. Acts of lynching certainly puts the image of our country at stake. It doubts the credibility and integrity of India. Certainly lynching cannot be new norm of India nor can it be a way to treat an accused under the existing laws. It is an act which each person should be ashamed of as it is dehumanise and belittles a person.
People should realise that every life is important and by killing someone just on a suspicion is not justified. It is the responsibility and duty of the court and police authorities to eradicate crime and punish the criminals in accordance with the laws of land. It is important for people to understand that being angry on a person for doing wrong towards the society is understandable and acceptable. But taking law into ones hands and having complete disregard to the laws is disrespectful and unacceptable in country like India. Lynching certainly cannot be exercised as a version of freedom of speech and expression and punishment for alleged crime.
Adv Pinny Pathak