Gaurav Chaliya and Suvam Kumar
Historically, India has been a secular democracy where all religions and faith have thrived. However, the history of secularism
and religious freedom has come under the threat of mob lynching in recent years. Tabrez Ansari, Prakash Ladka and Akbar Khan are some of the few names who have recently become prey to vigilante attacks of the mob lynching in India. From 2017- 2018, at least 33 people have diedand 99 have been injured in the vigilante attacks.
Although lynching has not been defined under any laws however it is generally understood as the practise whereby a mob, usually composed of several dozen or several hundred people, takes the law into its own hands to injure and kill a person accused of some wrongdoing. In most cases, it is reported under Sections 302 (Murder), 307 (Attempt to Murder), 324 (Hurt), 147 (Rioting) of the Indian Penal Code. Mob lynching is a crime against humanity and the fundamental principles of the law of the land. It is a flagrant violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Mob Lynching And International Obligations:
Within the given context, international agreements have played a role of significant source of reference for the Indian Supreme Court while dealing with cases related to the human rights especially when India is a party to such an agreement. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [“UDHR”] recognises the basic and fundamental human rights such as inherent dignity and equal protection by law. Article 7 of the UDHR guarantees equality before the law without any discrimination and provides protection against any incitement to such discrimination.
India is a signatory to UDHR and, consequently, the Indian Supreme Court in Railway Board v. Mrs Chandrima Das held that the basic human rights set out in UDHR have been endorsed by the Constitution under Part III as well. Hence, it posits an obligation on India to prevent such atrocious incidents of mob lynching which violate human rights.
Moreover, since lynching is targeted against a particular identity and discriminates the whole community, thereby violating the mandate of non-discrimination. As per the report, 84% of lynchings in India are reported to be against the Muslim community. This clearly shows that atrocities and discrimination are against a particular community. This violates the international obligation under Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [“ICCPR”] and Article 2 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [“ICESCR”] which prohibit any racial or religious discrimination or incitement to discrimination or violence.
The incidents of mob lynching in India have received a global condemnation. In particular, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom [“USCIRF”] has released a statement condemning the lynching on Muslim Man in India. It has strongly condemned such incidents in the following words:
“We call on the Indian government to take concrete actions that will prevent this kind of violence and intimidation by a thorough investigation of Ansari’s murder as well as the local police’s handling of the case. Lack of accountability will only encourage those who believe they can target religious minorities with impunity.”
Consequently, per UNCIRF’s recent report, India has been placed in Tier 2 for engaging in religious tolerance violations. This has posed a serious question as to the reality of India’s secularity.
A Failed attempt by the Indian Judiciary to Curb Mob Lynching:
In 2018, the Indian Supreme Court in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India condemned the incidents of mob lynching and stated that ‘the horrendous acts of mobocracy’ (para 42) cannot be allowed in India. The Court further laid down certain guidelines for the prevention of mob lynching and asked the Parliament to make lynching a separate offence. These guidelines include certain preventive, remedial and punitive measures to be taken by the designated authorities in an efficient and timely manner to prevent the anticipated crime. The designated authority is also required to consult and collaborate with the local authorities and intelligence unit to maintain strict surveillance on any anticipated activity leading to mob lynching.
However, despite such guidelines and constitutional safeguards,there has been a spate of incidents of mob lynching and are continue unabated.
There are several reasons for this:
First, there is no special law on mob lynching and is currently regulated by the Indian Penal Code which has not been quite successful in tackling the menace of mob lynching. In 2017, Manav Suraksha Kanoon [“MASUKA”] a new law, was proposed by the National Campaign against Mob Lynching to tackle the problem of mob lynching but it could not crystallize into a full-fledged law.
Second, after the beef ban in several parts of India, cow vigilantes have become dauntless and are widely reported to prey upon innocent people on mere suspicions or rumours. Recently, Akbar khan was beaten to death by cow vigilantes on mere surmise of beef trading.
Third, social media has played a major role in the escalation of the crime rates resulting from the mob lynching. More than a dozen people have been lynched owing to rumours spread by social media in a span of two months. In 2019, the issue was debated in parliament and the BJP government held social media as a sole cause in the rise of this problem. Moreover, the need for a national policy on social media was also sought in Rajya Sabha.
In spite of the tremendous rise of mob violence, the Indian State has not acted in a colossal manner to prevent these gruesome incidents of mob lynching and has given extraneous or rhetoric justifications for theirfailure to do so. As a solution to this, an inspiration can be drawn from USA which has recently passed a special law named ‘The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, 2018’ to curb the problems associated and accordingly India should make MASUKA a special law against lynching. This is the high time we realize the dire need of a special law viz. MASUKA dealing with the problems of mob lynching or else the society would be shrouded in the darkness of lawlessness and anarchy.