New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday condemned mob lynching incidents across the country and asked Parliament to enact a law to deal with the crime that threatens rule of law and the country’s social fabric. “Horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be permitted to become “a new normal,” it said.
Issuing a slew of guidelines including preventive, remedial and punitive steps to deal with offences such as mob violence and cow vigilantism, the court said mobocracy will not be allowed. “It is our constitutional duty to take a call to protect lives and human rights.”
The bench asked the Centre and states to file a compliance report on its directions. It adjourned the matter to August 20. “No one is entitled to take law into his own hands,” said a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkqar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.
The court’s remarks came on petitions seeking the court’s intervention to curb violence by vigilante groups across the country. The bench said when the “vigilantes involve themselves in lynching or any kind of brutality, they put the requisite accountability of a citizen to law on the ventilator.”
“That cannot be countenanced. They are no one to punish a person by ascribing any justification… the prescription of punishment does not empower any one to authorise himself to behave as the protector of law and impose punishment as per his choice and fancy,” it said. “The external forces cannot assume the role of protectors and once they pave the said path, they associate themselves with criminality and bring themselves in the category of criminals,” it added.
It is the duty of the state to ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively, the court said. It is essential to preserve secular ethos and the pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by rule of law, it noted.
“The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become the new normal,” the court said. “The State cannot turn a deaf ear to the growing rumblings of its people,” said the bench in its order.
“The exigencies of the situation 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 and nothing less,” said the bench.
Recommending that Parliament categorise a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for it, the court said: “A special law would instill a sense of fear. There can be no trace of doubt that fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitutes the foundation of a civilized society,” the bench said.