‘No act of a citizen is to be adjudged by any kind of community under the guise of protectors of law’

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud JJ., addressing with enormous sensitivity the issue of lynching issued directions covering the arena of preventive, remedial and punitive measures in order to curb the tumultuous dark clouds of vigilantism.

The Supreme Court stated that administration of law is conferred on the law enforcing agencies and no one is allowed to take law into his own hands on the fancy of his ‘shallow spirit of judgment’. The pivotal issues which required the primary dealing of the Apex Court were the issues leading to cow vigilantism and other incidents of lynching targeting violence under the garb of self-assumed protectors of law.

Referring to the suggestions stated by learned Senior Counsel Sanjay R. Hegde in an earlier petition, in which the petitioner had sought immediate and necessary action against the cow protection groups indulging in violence, the Court noted Sanjay R. Hegde’s submission, that no individual or vigilante group can engage in an act of lynching on the basis of a perception that a crime has been committed. He had also placed reliance on Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 275. Further, Learned Senior Counsel Ms Indira Jaisingh urged that immediate action is warranted in law against the self-styled vigilantes taking law into them.

While, noting the fact that ‘Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be given room to take shape, for it is absolutely a perverse notion’ the Supreme Court proceeded to issue the following guidelines, among others, under the following heads:

  • Preventive Measures: Central and State Governments to curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos, other material on various social media platforms, FIR against such persons under Section 153-A of IPC spreading messages and videos inciting mob violence and lynching, etc.
  • Remedial Measures: Lynching/mob violence compensation scheme to be prepared in light of provisions of Section 357 CrPC by the State Governments, Trial Court to award maximum sentence under the provisions of IPC, etc.
  • Punitive Measures: Placing reliance on the case Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2011) 6 SCC 405, States are directed to take disciplinary action against the officials failing to prevent such incidents even after having prior knowledge of the incident, etc.

‘State cannot turn a deaf ear to the growing rumblings of its People’

Concluding its judgment, the Supreme Court expressed that it would be appropriate to recommend to the legislature, that is, Parliament, to create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same. The matter is listed on 20-08-2018 for further directions. [Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India, (2018) 9 SCC 501, Order dated 17-07-2018]

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