Killing someone is the most immoral activity one could involve himself in. But when a group of people conjointly do that to execute a suspect, it takes a different turn. It is not only immoral but it’s just not correct on many levels. In this article, we would be discussing what is Mob Lynching and how it has compelled the legislature to make separate laws for it so that it can work effectively and efficiently to curb it.
The word “Mob” isused to refer to a group of people and “Lynching” is a pre-planned, unauthorized killing by a mob or a group. In simpler words, it is a group of agitated people who want to kill a person without having a trial because, in their belief, he/she has committed a crime or an act which is considered to be wrong. These people, to administer justice, execute a suspected person, often by inflicting torture. In India, mob lynching and murderous attacks on people have emerged as social evils and have taken the form of hate crimes, for instance,vigilante mobs have released waves of crimes all in the name of protection of cows and prevention of sale of beef. There have been numerous cases of mob lynching relating cow vigilante violence in India since 2014, mainly involving mob lynching Muslims and Dalits. One notable example of such attacks includes the 2015 Dadri mob lynching.[i]
Although the word lynching has its roots, abroad, it does not mean those mob killings are unheard of in India. Single women have often been lynched over the centuries, even stamped as witches. Dalits, too, have been lynched with cruelty for years. In the past few years, Dalits have even been killed for the most trivial matters like growing a moustache, riding a horse, or even building a two-storey house for themselves.
Rajasthan Mob Lynching Protection Bill, 2019
The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly passed a Bill or the Anti Lynching Bill, in the year 2019 that provided for life imprisonment and a fine ranging between Rs. 1,00,000 to Rs. 5,00,000 against those who are convicted of mob lynching, which results in the death of the victim. The Bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Shanti Dhariwal. It was passed by the Vidhan Sabha by a voice vote. The Bill defines lynching as a single act or a series of acts of violence aiding, abetting or attempting a violent act, either sudden or premeditated, by a mob (a group of two or more individuals) based on the grounds of religion, caste, race, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation and ethnicity.[ii]It also enlists many other offences related to lynching such as the distribution of offensive content, cultivating an aggressive environment and causing obstructions in legal processes, which are punishable. Even though it covers such a wide area, it still does not look into matters relating to solitary offences. The Bill states that police officers and district magistrates have to take proper actions against lynching and any other such related offences. It has empowered the state police chief to appoint a state coordinator to prevent such instances of lynching in the state and to take appropriate steps to do so.
Compensation and rehabilitation:
The Bill specifies a provision of compensation to victims by the state government under the Rajasthan Victim Compensation Scheme. Also, it has made a requisite for the state government to take necessary measures to rehabilitate the victims of mob lynching. As for an assault by a mob that results in the victim suffering grievous hurt, the Anti Lynching Bill provides for imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 3,00,000 and in cases where the victim suffers simple injuries, it provides for a punishment of imprisonment for a term extending up to 7 years and a fine up to Rs. 1,00,000.
Need for the Bill:
Even though the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code have provisions dealing with the cases of mob lynching, they are not adequate. Almost all cases of mob lynching reported in the country come from Rajasthan. The legislation recognizes that this offence victimizes minorities and contributes to increasing communal violence.Legislation fixes command responsibility for communal incidents. It recognizes that targeted communal violence disproportionately affects minorities and it creates a mechanism to insulate investigations of communal violence from political interference.[iii] On top of everything, preservation of life is the basic and the most important right of the citizens as against the state.
Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995 is an Act to provide for the prohibition of slaughter of cow and its progeny and also to regulate temporary migration or export thereof from Rajasthan.[iv] Under this Act, the onus probandi is on the accused. The Act was made in the interest of the general public as it prohibits the slaughter of cows, calves, heifers, bulls or bullocks belonging to the bovine cattle species and also specifies appropriate punishment for doing so.
In the landmark case of Tehseen S. Poonawala and Ors. v. Union of India[v],Chief Justice Dipak Mishra along with Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud recommended that the Parliament should be enacted specials laws on mob lynching as fear of law and reverence for the command of law form the base of a civilized society. The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill is indeed an interesting one. It has redefined the meaning of lynching in a broader sense. In another case, a person named Pehlu Khan and his two sons were brutally beaten up by a mob (gaurakshaks) while they were returning home after purchasing cows and other bovine animals. The intention behind this law is impeccable but it is still not very certain as to how this law will create intimidation, considering the brutal failure of Pehlu Khan’s case, where six out of nine accused were acquitted. The Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act is implicitly encouraging such lynching amongst some people. Exclusive provisions need to be added in given Act concerning this issue.
The Social Contract Theory states that it is the principal duty of the State to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens. Offences like mob lynching not only challenge the authority but also throw shade on the justice system of the state. This Act also gives the power to any competent authority or any person authorized by the authority to enter and search places.[vi] But giving immense and arbitrary powers to the police has made this anti-lynching law, draconian. The law needs to be amended with an instant effect. Such draconian powers will do no good but will instil a sense of fear in the citizens, which will ultimately engulf more and more of such cases into being spontaneous and not pre-planned.
The law cannot make a man undergo mental revolution but it can affect his actions by imposing certain laws on him and by punishing him for violating those laws. Therefore, the court in its judgement in Pehlu Khan’s case laid down a chain of preventive, punitive and remedial measures to be taken by the government to curtail instances of mob lynching. Also, the apex court recommended the Parliament to make lynching a separate offence. As far as vigilantism was in question, the court stated that the process of adjudication is supposed to take place within the precincts of courts of justice and not on the streets.[vii]
It is now evident that people today, are very brutally taking the lives of others without even giving it a second thought. It shows the intolerant behaviour of people which could be a result of lack of proper education and awareness. The prevalent situation of India, demands special laws on mob lynching and other related acts of violence against humanity. The victims of these mobs belong mostly to the marginalized community and the excluded sections of the quintessential society. Human rights, fundamental rights and various other moral rights would not make any sense if the faith in humanity is not restored. It is indeed ironical that people have become so intolerant that they have started considering themselves even above the law of the land. Situations like these sprout terror and panic in people therefore, it creates unfavourable circumstances against law and order. Safeguarding the lives of its people is one of the most important duties of the state. Democracy should, at no cost turn into Mobocracy and media, NGOs and other important institutions should work in a positive direction.
Q1. Who is a vigilante?
Ans. A vigilante is a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.
Q2. What is mob lynching law?
Ans. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob to punish an alleged transgressor, punish a convicted transgressor, or intimidate a group.
Q3. What was the Pehlu Khan case?
Ans. The 2017 Alwar mob lynching was the attack and murder of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Nuh district of Haryana, allegedly by a group of 200 cow vigilantes affiliated with right-wing Hindutva groups in Alwar, Rajasthan, India. Six others who were with Pehlu Khan were also beaten by the cow vigilantes.
Q4. What is the motive behind lynching?
Ans. it is done to create a sense of terror in the minds of the people so that a balance in the social and political spheres can be maintained.
Q5. What are Bovine animals?
Ans. Bovine animal means and includes cow, calf, heifer, bull or bullockmeans an uncastrated male above the age of three years.
[iv]Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995
[v]Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India and Ors, (2018) 9 SCC 501