Mob Lynching: Why is it still unabated?

Bishaldeep Kakati and Mrinmoy Baruah

On July 17, 2018, the honourable Supreme Court of India had decried cases of lynching and cow vigilantism and said mobocracy cannot be allowed in the society. “No citizen can take law into his own hands nor become law unto himself,” the judges further added. From the heart wrenching incident of Nilutpal and Abhijeet to the recent mob lynching case of Rituparna Pegu, the heinous acts of mob lynching have always inflicted a lot of fear among the residents of the society. And unfortunately the administrative officials, the legislators and even the judiciary as a whole has always failed to not only curb the menace of mob lynching but also to provide justice to the families. Hence, it is really necessary for us to understand the underlying causes behind this heinous act and thus find out the possible solutions.

Lynching basically means a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, a convicted transgressor or intimidate a group. And according to reports, in India, in the last 5 years, 113 people have been killed by the act of mob lynching.

A fact that is well known to all the people at large is that the rate of doing any crime would simply increase if there is no fear among the criminals, of being punished for committing the same. And the issue regarding increase in mob lynching cases lies in the reality that there prevails no specific law particularly for this heinous act. However briefly alluding the law, under Section 149 of the IPC, a mob exceeding 5 individuals would be prosecuted for causing the death of an individual in furtherance of a common object to cause such intentional killing, punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, if death has resulted on account of such violence. The victims of such violence or their family members would be compensated under section 357A of CrPC, 1973.

With the increase in number of mob lynching cases, back in 2019,Tiruchi Siva, a member of the Parliament of India representing Tamil Nadu in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament raised a pertinent question: Why has the President of India not yet given assent to the Bills on mob lynching that have been passed by Manipur and Rajasthan? The Central Government though put an optimistic view to it by stating that the Centre would look into the matter and if required would make necessary amendments to IPC or CrPC to  deal with the cases of mob lynching in the country. Further the Government also informed the Rajya Sabha that letters have been written to the States and Union Territories asking suggestions regarding the matter. However MoS Nityanand Rai stated that incidents of lynching should be dealt using Sections 300 and 302 of the IPC since the offence amounts to murder and hence a strict punishment like death or life imprisonment would be appropriate for the same. And although states like Manipur and Rajasthan had already passed specific Bills on mob lynching, but the Centre is still in the process of examining the same in consultation with the Central ministries concerned. So the thing that is evident from here is that we still do not have a proper ACT to deal with cases related to mob lynching cases. Hence it’s important for us in the current context, to evaluate out the probable reasons behind mob lynching and in the process also find out at least some solutions to curb the escalating rate of mob lynching incidents.

The honourable Supreme Court of India back in 2018, described lynching as a “horrendous act of mobocracy”, and hence laid down guidelines for the Centre and the State Government to frame laws specifically to deal with the crime of lynching. The guidelines ranged from designating a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob lynching to asking the State Government to prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme. But somewhere down the line, unfortunately these guidelines have also failed to prevent incidents of mob lynching, may be due to lack of proper implementation of these.

Moreover, if we carefully analyze the incidents of mob lynching, we would notice that in cases of mob lynching, there is the tendency among the people to provide ‘instant justice’ and that itself is a serious crime. Hence, it’s very important to realize the fact that punishing the culprit, no matter how grave and heinous the alleged crime, it is not the duty of the citizens, but that of the judiciary. And until and unless the people at large understand this fact, in no way, incidents of mob lynching can be ceased. Furthermore, illiteracy, lack of humanity, tendency to be wild and show dominant behavior etc prevailing among a certain section of the society might also be some of the major causes for the increase in number of mob lynching incidents.

However, it is really crucial for the residents of the country to act together in order to reduce the number of mob lynching incidents. But before that, it is pivotal for the government of India to come out with a proper ACT to deal with the issues relating to mob lynching. And at least till a proper ACT comes out, the states should properly try to implement the guidelines given by the Supreme Court of India. Furthermore, the various NGO’s working for the society, should try to organize awareness campaigns and help the people to know about the ill effects of mob lynching and thus prevent the people from indulging in mob lynching incidents and taking law on their own hands. But nothing in this regard would work until and unless a section of the society changes their mindset; by incorporating a sense of humanity and more so by trusting the judiciary to take the apt steps against mob lynching rather than they themselves.

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Jun 28, 2020

Bishaldeep kakati

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