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  >  Blogs   >  Mob Lynching: A need for Balancing the crime between mob versus Individual

Mob Lynching: A need for Balancing the crime between mob versus Individual

The Latin maxim salus populi est suprema lex (the safety of the people is the supreme law) and salus reipublicae est suprema lex (safety of the State is the Supreme law) both are co-exist and are not only important and relevant but lie at the heart of the doctrine that the welfare of an individual must yield to that of the community. In a democratic country like India, Every citizens of the country takes its pride of its Constitution, which is considered to be the Gita and Bible of sovereign India because it guarantees justice to all but now a days it is been seen at edge of its dilution. In recent years, we have witness the number of incidents of mob lynching against vulnerable individuals which reflects that the law of land have become so weak that these people don’t get justice against the atrocities done upon them by the so called “social guards of the society” who have become so aggressive at a time that they assume any individual criminal and held them guilty by their own without any legal trial. In this context, we see that the rule of law as well as the criminal justice has become so weak by the menace of lynching and if it is not curbed promptly it could seriously tarnish the image of India’s criminal justice system.

Lynching Not a New Trend

Lynching is an act of unspeakable horror. There is an absolute asymmetry of power. It is a mob versus an individual, who is often helpless and begged for life. Lynching is not a new trend, in fact it is an old crime here, often committed against those of lower castes and marginalized tribes, in order to reinforce brutal social hierarchies. But the recent incidence in the last few years shows a specific kind of mob murder on the bases of either stealing a cattle or a child or some other fact and thus intermingling it with the religion. Thus in every other week there’s news that a mob has thrashed an individual from a particular community or religion forming a base of aforesaid region.

What Factors pushes ordinary citizens to form lynch mobs in India?

In every incidence of mob lynching we see that it generally made up by the ordinary citizens accusing the victims of either stealing a cattle or child and by this form they make their motive for mob lynching. But that doesn’t mean to take the life of a human being. Even the court in very rare cases award the death sentence then how these ordinary citizens can take the life of the human.
In Hitler’s Willing Executioners, writing about the complicity of ordinary Germans in exterminating Jews, Daniel Gold Hagen offers an extraordinary suggestion. It points out that in trying to understand the killing operations undertaken by ordinary members of a society. We must consider, the phenomenological world of the executioners; their emotional or mental regimes from which they derive their motivation but in our country this motivation can be seen in terms of a change within the polity that has created conditions in society which allow members of one community to lynch the members of another on the basis of religions. Now in the last few years many attacks on men, women and infants have been taken place in various districts of India,the country is known for large-scale destruction, terror, and murder associated with episodes of communal violence which is instigated, organized, and led by various Nationalist groups.

Incidents of lynching
Dadri Lynching case (September 2015 ): The incidence of mob lynching began when a Muslim man named Mohammad Akhlaq was brutally dragged and killed by a mob of cow vigilantes in front of his family for storing beef in his refrigerator.
In July 2016, four Dalit youth were thrashed by mob with the iron rod then after they were tied to car and dragged across the village in Una town, Gujarat for skinning dead cows.
In November 2018, an Auto driver Avinash Saxena lynched for allegedly stealing car batteries in Delhi.
On January 26, 2018, Chandan Gupta died of gunshot wounds after he was shot at during the motorcycle rally taken out to celebrate Republic Day in Uttar Pradesh’s Kashganj town.
Alwar Mob Lynching Case (April 1, 2018): Pehlu khan with other four person were attacked allegedly by the cow vigilantes when they were on the way to Haryana after purchasing the cattle.
Latest in this episodic violence is the incident happened on 16th April 2020 in Palghar,Maharashtra, where two Sadhus, along with their driver associated with the Juna Akhara, who were on their way from Mumbai to Gujarat to give Samadhi to another Sadhu, were brutally lynched by a mob of over 100 people.

Role of social media in increasing the crime of mob lynching:
Over the last few years there are so many incidences of mob lynching which is at sometimes the outcome of the rumours spread by the social platform such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and twitter which creates an adverse influence on the ordinary people who become so aggressive at a time that they assume any individual criminal and held them guilty by their own. Thus this social media has somehow become the true serial behind creating an atmosphere which results in mob lynching.

According to Samir Parikh, director of department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Fortis Healthcare states as “according to Mental health experts the people tend to believe messages sent through platforms like WhatsApp as they usually are sent by a trusted source. “As a result, doubts regarding the credibility of the source of the messages tend to get diluted. And therefore, we are inherently more likely to not think of rejecting the content of the message as being false or inauthentic.”

What are the Causes of Mob Lynching Incidents:

Today the main cause we see behind mob lynching is that there is lack of fear about the consequences of their act. Every person who commits violence thinks that they will easily get away with the crime.
Secondly, we see that there is an indirect support of the ruling parties which publicly support the mob over killing of a person in the name of beef eaters.
Thirdly, we see that there is lack of trust in police system as they most of the time do not take appropriate actions.
Fourthly, lack of knowledge regarding the rumours spread over the social media.
What Supreme Court says in the context of mob lynching
In present there is no law that criminalise mob killing but there are certain guidelines issued by the Supreme court to prevent this horrendous acts of mobocracy.

Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. : (2018) 9 SCC 501
In this case the S.C observed that the rights of the citizens cannot be destroyed in an unlawful manner. As the investigating agency has to show fidelity to the statutory safeguards, similarly, every citizen is required to express loyalty to law and the legal procedure. No one, and we repeat no one, is entitled to take the law into his own hands and annihilate anything that the majesty of law protects. When the vigilantes involve themselves in lynching or any kind of brutality, they, in fact, put the requisite accountability of a citizen to law on the ventilator. That cannot be countenanced. Such core groups cannot be allowed to act as they please. They cannot be permitted to indulge in freezing the peace of life on the basis of their contrived notions. They are no one to punish a person by ascribing any justification. The stand and stance put forth in the interlocutory applications filed by the impleaded parties intend to convey certain contraventions of the provisions of statutory law but the prescription of punishment does not empower any one to authorize himself to behave as the protector of law and impose punishment as per his choice and fancy.

In view of the aforesaid case, The Apex court has also issued certain preventive, remedial as well as punitive measures for combating mob lynching and recommend the parliament to draft a law on this particular subject but despite of this, we saw so many incidence which shows how weak the fiat of the Supreme Court runs in this country.

Thus to draw the conclusion It is required to state that the ordinary people as well the state machinery must realise that the most potential weapon in India’s armoury which binds different and varied kinds of people is the thread of Unity in Diversity and the principles of Humanity. Secondly the trust of the ordinary people on law and order and the faith on judiciary and police demands more special laws to deal with this specific terror and furthermore social media should be kept under the supervision by the law agency in order to stop the circulation of fake videos and messages. Hence if no specifics measures are codified specifically then then the mobocracy and hooliganism are going to make its own place strongly and accordingly specific attention is needed to deal with the issue in hand.

Authored by Vijay Singh, Principal Associate at Vidhiśāstras-Advocates & Solicitors.


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