“A society with lynch culture needs a big zoo, not for the animals definitely, but for the very people themselves.” –Mehmat Murat Ildan
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Word ‘Mob’ means, “A large and disorderly crowd of People” whereas the term “Lynch” means, “To put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission”. Lynching is said to be originated from the Southern US in the 19th Century. This was the time when a conflict between White and Blacks was at its peak. Slaves (Blacks) were freed and the fair-looking people suffered a financial crisis and blamed Blacks for it resulting in thousands of lynchings. Mob Lynching commonly referred to as Mob Justice has become a serious threatening question in every civil society. It is generally a form of severe punishment (Beating till death or hanging) inflicted upon an accused by a group of People without any fair trial or having legal authority to do so. This kind of incident mostly takes place in the name of Religious Prejudice or any Rumor. In the past few years, the World’s largest democracy has witnessed a sudden uprise in Lynching cases.
This piece of writing tries to analyze Mob Lynching and how it is a threat to the Rule of Law.
Legal Provisions for Lynching
Currently, there is no specific legislation dealing solely with Lynching. However, we can find some provisions providing punishment relating to lynching in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 such as Section 34 provides punishment for the criminal act done by several persons having common intention, Section 120B provides punishment to parties who participates together in any criminal conspiracy, Section 302 provides punishment for murder, Section 304 provides punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and Section 325 provides punishment for causing grievous hurt to a person voluntarily.
As present laws do not specifically deal with Mob Lynching, Maanav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) bill, 2017 was an attempt to provide specific laws dealing with matters related to it. This was a collective attempt by National Campaign against Mob Lynching. This bill attempted to incorporate certain provisions to existing law i.e. including mob violence in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and many more. The bill aimed at providing rehabilitation to the families of victims and also had a provision that the Local SHO shall be suspended until the charges against him are absolved.
Tehseen S. Poonawala v. Union of India and Ors, a landmark Judgment
Tehseen S. Poonawala along with Mohanbhai Hamir Bhai Bedva and Matin Macwan filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution which highlighted various Mob Lynching incidents and challenged Cow protection laws of 6 states. In this case, a three Judges bench headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Mishra condemned Mob Lynching and also issued several guidelines to both Central and State governments to tackle mob violence. The guidelines issued were categorized into three different heads i.e. Preventive, Remedial, and Punitive measures. Hon’ble Court showing its deep concern towards lynching observed,
“Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself. 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. These extrajudicial attempts under the guise of protection of the law have to be nipped in the bud; lest it would lead to the rise of anarchy and lawlessness which would plague and corrode the nation like an epidemic.”
The guidelines provided in this Judgment are enough to tackle any incidents relating to Mob Lynching if implemented effectively.
Prevalence of Lynching in India
National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) is responsible for providing data related to crimes but till now it hasn’t provided any data specifically dealing with Mob Lynching. As per Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) report, 29 people from tribal, Christian, and Muslim have been lynched on the mere suspicion of Cow Slaughter, carrying beef and religious hatred in Jharkhand from 2016 to 2020. In most cases Religious and Caste intolerance, Fake News, Rumors, and the mere suspicion of the sale or consumption of beef are the guiding force behind these unfortunate incidents. The utmost sufferers of lynching are Religious Minorities, Dalits, and Tribal People. Following are some important Case Studies relating to lynching in India.
- Palghar Lynching Case: On April 2020 a group of vigilante lynched Two Sadhus and their driver with Sticks, stones, and axes in the Palghar district of Maharashtra. The whole incident was due to a Whatsapp rumor which stated that Thieves and Child lifters are operating in the local area.
- Dadri Lynching Case: Famously known as the Akhlaq case. On 28 September 2015, a group of villagers in Dadri (UP) lynched a 52-year-old Mohd. Akhlaq on a mere suspicion that Akhlaq was storing and eating beef and was involved in cow slaughter.
- Ballabgarh Train Lynching Case: A couple of days before Eid in 2017, a 16-year-old boy named Junaid was lynched by a group of men in a Local Train. The group of individuals made Communal remarks and later stabbed him with knives. His other cousins were also wounded but managed to survive.
- Rajkot Mukesh Lynching Case: In May 2018 a group of 5 men (Including the Factory Owner) lynched a 35-year-old Dalit named Mukesh Vaniya and his wife was seriously injured. The whole incident occurred on the mere suspicion that they were stealing Scrap.
- Alwar lynching case: In April 2017 a group of Cow Vigilantes allegedly lynched a dairy farmer named Pehlu Khan in Alwar District of Rajasthan. Deceased was carrying Cows and Calves to increase Milk Production and showed Documents relating to it but the Mob dragged them down and beat them ruthlessly. Pehlu Khan died while others managed to survive but suffered serious injuries.
These cases are just a small fraction of numerous cases as many get unreported and even if they are reported the National Media is reluctant enough not to highlight them.
Lynching is not a sudden phenomenon but also has been there in earlier civilizations. In recent years, the World’s Largest Democracy has witnessed a sudden increase in its frequency. Communal Hatred, Hate Politics, Fake News, and Rumors are the main elements channelizing the Phenomenon. In any democratic country taking the law into our hands is prohibited. Incidents like lynching pose a serious threat to the established Rule of law and Violate Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution. In any democratic country taking the law into our hands is prohibited.
It is interesting to note that many accused of lynching have been found connected to various Political Parties and believed that the act committed by them was right. This induces a very concept of Majoritarianism. Religious Minorities and Dalits are the worst sufferers of this evil. However, it doesn’t mean that others are untouched by it.