Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mobocracy can’t be allowed to become new normal: SC

Coming down strongly on the ‘new normal’ of recurring incidents of mob lynching, the Supreme Court on Tuesday recommended that Parliament create a “separate offense” for the crime to instill the fear of the law into offenders and preserve rule of law in a pluralistic society.

The court asked the central and state governments to discharge their constitutional duty of maintaining law and order to ensure peace and protect the secular ethos. Governments were duty bound to ensure that rule of law prevailed in a democratic set-up and treat those indulging in violence as criminals needed stern punishment, it said.
“Horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become the new normal. The state cannot turn a deaf ear to growing rumblings of its people, since its concern, to quote Woodrow Wilson, ‘must ring with the voices of the people’,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

SC sets compensation guidelines

The Supreme Court stated in no uncertain terms that vigilante groups could only report a crime but would be sternly punished if they took the law into their hands. The court set out guidelines for compensation, fast-track courts and action against negligent officials so that “mobocracy” did not drown out the law.
The court said Parliament should “create a separate offense for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same” as a special law to deter mob crimes that often target innocents. It ordered the states to frame within a month a “lynching or mob violence victim compensation scheme” with provision for interim payment to victims within a month of an incident.
Framing elaborate guidelines to prevent, remedy and punish mob lynching, the court, which recently sought the Centre’s response on allegations that its proposed social media hubs will profile social media users, ordered the Centre and states to curb circulation of inflammatory messages.
The court asked for “steps to curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”.
Writing the judgment on a bunch of petitions filed by Tehseen Poonawala, Tushar Gandhi and others, CJI Misra said, “It is axiomatic that it is the duty of the state to ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively in maintaining peace so as to preserve our quintessential secular ethos and pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by rule of law.
“The exigencies of the situation (created by incidents of mob lunching) require us to sound a clarion call for earnest action to strengthen our inclusive and all-embracing social order which would, in turn, reaffirm the constitutional faith. We expect nothing more or nothing less.”
While asking the Centre and states to frame a compensation policy for victims, the three-judge bench unanimously said trial in such cases, including pending ones, should be tried by a designated court or a fast-track court on a day-to-day basis to conclude proceedings within six months of taking cognizance.
“To set a stern example in cases of mob violence and lynching, upon conviction of the accused persons, the trial court must ordinarily award maximum sentence under various offenses under provisions of the IPC,” CJI Misra said, while directing trial courts to provide protection to witnesses and conceal their identities.
The SC said authorities and police officers failing to comply with the guidelines outlined in Tuesday’s judgment would be guilty of “an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken against him/her and not limited to departmental action under the service rules. A departmental action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months by the authority”.

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