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MOB LYNCHING AS A NEW OFFENCE EMERGING IN INDIA: A STUDY WITH A SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ASSAM

Section: B

Category: Article

Paper Code: RA-NC-19

Page Number: 346 - 355

Date of Publication: February 10, 2021

Citation: Nargis Choudhury, Mob Lynching as a New Offence Emerging in India: A Study with a Special Reference to Assam, 1, AIJACLA, 346, 346-355, (2021).

Details Of Author(s):

Nargis Choudhury, Former Faculty of Legal Studies, School of Law and Juridical Sciences, Apex Professional University, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh


ABSTRACT In the 21st century, India has become a country where various heinous offenses and incidents are increasing rapidly, without any fear of punishment. During the past few years, the cases of Mob lynching have been increased. In the name of religion, kidnapping, child-lifters, witch hunting for the past few years, the nation has been witnessing an increase in offenses like lynching incidents related to unusual mob violence. Lynching, a form of violence can be defined as informal mass executions in which a mob under administering justice without any trial, execute a presumed offender and punish them. In recent years, there have been many such incidents in India, especially in Assam, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar etc. Cases have increased to an alarming extent where many people have lost their lives. Under Indian Law, there is no legal-specific provision for lynching. It is the need of the hour to have a special law or separate category of offense under the Indian Legal system to curb the incidents of lynching and mob violence. KEYWORDS Lynching, offenses, victims, violence, and Indian Legal Framework

INTRODUCTION Mob lynching has been a new trend in India which is an immoral act full of barbarism. In every society the lynching instances and similar kind of mob violence offenses can be found. The mob believes by taking law into their own hands without following rules of law while punishing a presumed offender. In recent years, Assam has also witnessed several mob violence incidents and an increase in it. Mob means a large crowd of people or a group of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent to cause violence i.e., an unrestrained crowd. Lynching is an extrajudicial punishment or killing a person by an informal group without any legal trial. It is most often used to punish a presumed offender or to intimidate a crowd to characterize informal public executions by a group of people.[1] Under the Indian Legal System, the term ‘Lynching’ is not defined and to date, no punishments have been provided regarding mob lynching. In the incidents of lynching, the person already gets judged by the mob, the affected person does not have the option of approaching the law, enforcing authorities, and seeking their rights. Therefore, the victim’s basic rights are taken away. These offenses take place when people get incited by hatred and anger having no fear and get ready to take law into their own hands. This paper deals with the causes of increasing incidents of lynching and mob violence and study on various cases identifying with lynching incidents in Assam.

LYNCHING MEANING Lynching, a form of violence in which a mob, under the pretext of administering justice without trial, executes a presumed offender, often after inflicting torture and corporal mutilation.[2] Lynch law can be referred to as a self-constituted court that punishes presumed offenses usually killing them without due process of law. According to the English dictionary, lynching means putting to death a person suspected of a crime, by mob action especially by hanging, and without any legal authority. In other words, lynching is an unlawful murder without any legal trial by an angry group of people. It can be considered as an Americo - Latin word, the meaning of which means without any legal proceedings or any legal trial awarding the death sentence to a person.[3] That is, when an unrestrained angry group of people kills a person or otherwise kills him in some other way without any legal process or authority because they believe that a person has committed wrong or an offense, then it is being called Mob Lynching. The National Campaign Against Mob Lynching-NCAML’S draft ‘ Protection from Lynching Act, 2017 defines, for the first time in legal history, the term ‘lynching’, ‘mob’ and ‘victim’ of mob lynching.

BACKGROUND OF MOB LYNCHING If we see from a historical perspective, in the mid-18th century in the United States the word ‘lynching’ was originated. It is believed by the Historians that the term lynching was first used to describe extra-judicial authority assumed by private individuals.[4] In the late 19th century most commonly came to be applied over time to extra-judicial killings by crowds. The case of Lynching in India was first reported in the Khairlanji massacre of 2006.[5] The rising trend in recent times- Dadri lynching case for slaughtering of cow, Jharkhand Lynching case for alleged child lifting, Junaid’s murder case in a train by an angry mob and extend to Nilutpal-Abhijit lynching case on suspicion of child-lifters in Assam. The Dadri mob lynching refers to the case of mob lynching in which a mob of villagers attacked and killed a man Akhlaq, 52 years old under the suspicion of slaughtering of a cow.[6] On June 23, 2017, one 15 years boy named Junaid was stabbed to death and his brothers were abused and beaten by a mob between railway stations.[7] The Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das case which is a very fresh one in this regard in Assam, the duo who were lynched to death in Karbi Anglong, Assam, India. They were mistaken as child lifters and were lynched to death by certain local habitats even when they pleaded their hearts out saying that they were innocent. Now here, the incident occurred, was covered as breaking news, hours passed by, then days, then months but none was brought under the purview of punishment and no person was identified as an alleged transgressor. In April 2019, came up with another instance of mob lynching where an old man fell victim to mob violence where he was harassed, humiliated, and beaten by the mobs.

CAUSES OF INCREASING MOB LYNCHING INCIDENTS 1. The main reason for increasing mob lynching is the lack of fear and unawareness about the consequences as there is no legal provision for the offense of lynching. The people in the group who commit the offense, think that they can get away with the offense. 2. The ineffective investigation and negligence by police officials and the ineffective justice system are the reasons for this fearlessness in the society that further fuels the process of increase of the offense. 3. Indirect support from the government is another reason. Some incidents of mob lynching are because of cow vigilantism. Several political leaders publicly supported the mob that killed a person over the suspicion of eating beef or selling beef. In the past few years in India these criminal incidents are taking place frequently, but no serious action is adopted to prevent such offenses. 4. The most common reason is technology. In recent years, an increase in online rumors and misinformation have resulted in numerous people falling victim to lynching by the mob in the society. The role of social media has played an increasing crime has thrown the spotlight multitude impact in the country. The internet companies and the role of social media users are still to come up with effective measures and policy to control the spread of misinformation which include fake news and unfortunate impact. 5. The Lynching instances are caused by so many other reasons too. The rising cases of witch-hunting in Assam is one among them. Many women are killed by villagers in suspect them of practicing witchcraft. 6. If we see from a historical perspective there have also been caste-related killings, which have involved mob-killings in India. However, most such cases are not reported.

Following cases of Mob Lynching in Assam are noteworthy in this regard: 1. Jhankar Saikia mob lynching case: A mob has beaten 16-year-old Jhankar Saikia and his father Haren Saikia at Diphu town in Karbi Anglong district on June 25, 2013. A person named Haren Saikia professionally a Lawyer and his son were assaulted after they refused to pay Rs 30 to an auto-rickshaw driver instead of the regular fare of Rs 20 his son was mercilessly beaten by a group of auto-rickshaw drivers and some others in the presence of local police personnel. His son was critically injured.[8] 2. The brutal mob lynching of two youths: A brutal lynching of two young boys Abhijit Nath and Nilutpal Dutta from Guwahati, Assam took place in Karbi Anglong on 8 June 2018 that shook Assam.[9] A mob attacked two youths under suspicion of child trafficking and beat them to death. The case has been spread by fake social media reports circulated on WhatsApp about a group of child-lifters entering into Assam. The incident happened when they went to the Kangthilangso waterfall during their vacation. While returning they were unable to identify the route to return home and while they asked for the route to home their vehicle was attacked by a local group of people at Dokmoka, Karbi Anglong. The local group of people from that village suspected them to be child-lifters, thrashed the boys out, hit them brutally to death. Mob thrashes an old man: In another instance in April 2019 in Biswanath Chariali Assam, an old man aged 68 years fell victim to mob violence for serving beef. The mob assaulted and brutally beaten up the old man. In social media, a video was viral where the victim Shaukat Ali was surrounded by a group of angry people, asked the victim the reason for selling beef, and the victim was seen kneeling in mud. The angry mob also demanded the old man to declare his nationality, asked for a National Register of Citizen (NRC) certificate. They allegedly forced the old Muslim man to eat pork. 3. Vendor lynching case: In a very recent case on 25th May, 2020, Assam witnessed a shocking incident of a mob lynching case in Hajo, Kamrup district. The victim Sanatan Deka, a vegetable vendor while his bicycle accidentally hit a car, he was brutally lynched and beaten to death by a group of five people.[10]

THE INDIAN LAWS Constitutional Law The Constitution of India is safeguarding the rights of Indian citizens but the increased number of these serious incidents of lynching and mob violence are alarming us to the extent. These crimes show a lack of institutional mechanism, which is essential for the realization of the rights of the vulnerable section. As there is no legal provision under Indian Law it is the need of the hour to put control over the violence and offense of mob lynching to have a separate category of offense, in form of mob lynching and mass execution. The word lynching under the Indian legal system is not defined anywhere or any specific law available in India to deal with such offenses. As there is no law for lynching, it is difficult to give speedy justice to the victims of mob lynching. Incidents of lynching are generally reported under criminal laws of IPC and Cr. P.C.

Indian Penal Code The lynching incidents in India are generally reported under Indian Penal Code, section 302 for murder, section 307 for an attempt to murder, section 323 for punishment for voluntary causing hurt, 324 for causing hurt, 325 punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, 335 for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, 147 provides punishment for rioting, section 148 for rioting armed with deadly weapon, Section 149 of Indian Penal Code for every member of unlawful assembly, guilty of an offense committed in prosecution of common object and section 34 of Indian Penal Code for acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention.[11] The lynching incidents are reported under the Indian Penal Code should be investigated properly to curb this serious offense. The criminal laws existing under the Indian Legal system to prevent the cases of lynching is not enough as the hate element of it is not addressed. So, an amendment in IPC could be passed the same as the one passed in the acid attack case which provides minimum punishment for 5-year imprisonment which can extend up to 7 years with a fine.

Criminal Procedure Code The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 under Section 223(a) states that it is possible to charge jointly in prosecution two or more accused together in case of the same offense committed by them under the provision but nothing is being mentioned anywhere regarding the justice delivery system. It has not been proved that these legal provisions have given stringent legal teeth for prompt justice neither to victims nor their families. So, in absence of special law in all cases it will be difficult for the judiciary of India for any remedy and to give speedy relief and justice to the victim and his family.

MASUKA – Manav Suraksha Kanoon A civil society under the leadership of lawyers and activists such as Sanjay Hegde, Prakash Ambedkar, Tehseen Poonawalla, and Shehla Rashid initiated a draft law named as Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA).[12] The activist has in this draft proposed a law against mob lynching which will also add the terms of ‘mob’ and ‘lynching’. It contains defining calls for forming mob lynching a non-bailable offense and punishment for the convicted ones would be life, a period of judicial inquiry, and to give remedial compensation to the victim’s family. Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) is a law against mob lynching which has been proposed by National Campaign against Mob Lynching (NCAML).[13] MASUKA, the law demanded by Civil Society provides that the law to be made for mob lynching shall be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and life imprisonment along with a time-bound trial. The draft law also provides compensation to the victim’s family and the police enforce action to ensure the protection of witnesses.

Steps Taken So Far 1. For sustained and structured cultural connect between citizens of different regions, the Government launched ‘Ek Bharat shreshta Bharat’. 2. To protest against the cow vigilantism in civil society, the ‘NOT IN MY NAME’ campaign has been launched.[14] 3. National Campaign Against Mob Lynching (NCAML) was launched by the Civil society for the protection of humans and it is also known as ‘MaSuKa’, short for ManavSurakshaKanoon.[15] Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MaSuKa) is the Law has been demanded by the civil society which deals with various facets of the above-mentioned offenses as – ● Deals with police neglect and complicity. ● Special courts for stringent punishment, speedy relief and to give justice. ● Rehabilitation for Victim’s families ● Compensation for the families of victims. ● Protection of witnesses. 4. The Union and most State governments have done little to obey the directions of the Supreme Court. The Rajasthan and Manipur is the only state in India that became the first state to have passed a bill against incidents of lynching.[16] 5. The Information Technology Ministry asked the internet company to take immediate steps against fake rumors through WhatsApp and other social media platforms, but the company has expressed its inability to tackle the problem. To comply with the direction the internet company has limits on forwarding of messages on WhatsApp. As per the new law now a person only five times would be able to forward one message through WhatsApp.[17]In India, the WhatsApp app is also planning to remove the fast forward button which is set next to the media messages. Whether these steps taken by Internet companies can curb the spread of false information including fake rumors in social media for which these heinous offenses are increasing. 6. The Supreme Court of India has accepted the petition filed by the Centre to set up a Social Media Communications Hub, which would allow the government to keep an eye on and to track all social media platforms. The government has maintained that the social media hub would only monitor public sentiments with concerns about mass surveillance and privacy rights. The proposed hub observed by the Supreme Court which has already been challenged legally that it would lead to the creation of a “surveillance state”.[18] The Supreme Court of India in 2015 also struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act which provides punishment for sending utilizing “any information which he knows to be falls to cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will”. 7. The general guidelines for the police administration of the entire country as an interim order/direction by the Supreme Court in the case of Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs. Union of India and others (2018), on July 17, 2018. 8. The Supreme Court of India to end the mob lynching in India has given 11 points. It gave a slew of directions, including preventive, remedial, and punitive steps, to deal with the violence and offenses like mob lynching. [19]

SUGGESTIONS 1. The government of India should take steps to pass the law which is demanded by the civil society, Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MaSuKa). If MaSuKa will become a law it would do the same for the victims of mob lynching same as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the SC/ST (Prevention from atrocities) Act, 1989 and has been passed and theses are to secure justice and for the protection of a group. 2. It shall be the duty of the governments including local administration authorities to take steps to control and stop dissemination. 3. Parliament of India should create special law under Indian law on mob Lynching. 4. Government should take strict actions to curb these offenses and should criminalize the act of mob violence. 5. If due to any malafide intension or willful neglect by the public servants for failing to investigate the case then penalties should be imposed on them. 6. In dealing with the suspicion of offense in local areas or communities their exigency to be continued responsiveness on part of the local authority of administration. 7. Police reforms are essential along with sensitization drive to make transformational changes in their behavioral approach towards tackling the lynching offenses.

CONCLUSION After the 73 years of Independence, the generation is witnessing heinous crimes like mob-lynching which has become a normal trend. Under the Indian legal framework, there is no legal provision for offenses of mob lynching. It is high time that our Indian legal system should include lynching as a serious offense. Our government has to provide safety and dignified life to every person as our lives are valuable and precious and the government must take care of them. These emerging violence and heinous offenses need to be curbed to protect our nation. No one has a right to take away other's lives or to hurt the sentiments of people. As people having no fear of punishment, therefore to put special control over the offense of mob lynching the need of the hour is to have a separate category of offense and punishment under the Indian Legal System to those who are involved in these heinous offenses.


[1] Dr.Mithilesh kumar choubey, mob lynching: a case study jharkhand, RESEARCH GATE, (Sep. 2020, 11, 0:45 PM), file:///c:/users/lenovo/appdata/local/temp/moblynchingacasestudyofjharkhand.pdf . [2] Law on Mob Lynching, Advocates pedia, (Sep. 2020, 20, 02:00 PM), https://advocatespedia.com/Law_on_Mob_Lynching. [3] Supra note 2. [4] Harsh Mander, Lynching, the scourge of new India, THE HINDU, (Oct. 2020, 01, 08:05 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/lynching-the-scourge-of-new-india/article29693818.ece. [5] Arnold HT Sangma, Mob lynching: An uprising offence needed to be strenuous under the Indian legal system, (Oct. 2020, 03, 05:45 PM), http://www.academicjournal.in/archives/2017/vol2/issue4/2-4-15. [6] BBC News, Why India man was lynched over beef rumours, BBC, (Oct. 2020, 03, 07:00 PM), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34409354. [7] Ashok Berwal, Junaid murder case: prime accused nabbed, THEHINDU, (Oct. 2020, 03, 09:15 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/junaid-murder-case-prime-accused-nabbed/article19240701.ece. [8] Hemanta Kumar Nath, Assam court awards life imprisonment to 12 accused in 2013 Jhankar Saikia mob lynching case, IND TOD, (Oct. 2020, 20, 03:00 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/assam-court-awards-life-imprisonment-to-12-accused-in-2013-jhankar-saikia-mob-lynching-case-1650982-2020-02-28. [9] Mob Violence: Rise in lynching, justice delayed for victims, PTimes, Pratidin Bureau, (Oct. 2020, 20, 07:25 PM), https://www.pratidintime.com/mob-violence-rise-in-lynching-justice-delayed-for-victims/. [10] Sanatan Deka Case: Two Accused Arrested, PratidinTimes, Pratidin Bureau, (Oct. 2020, 21, 03:00 PM), https://www.pratidintime.com/sanatan-deka-case-two-accused-arrested/. [11] Civil Society Comes Together To Draft ‘Law’ Against Mob Lynching, NEWS18, (Oct. 2020, 22, 09:22 PM), http://www.news18.com/news/india/civil-society-comes-together-to-draft-law-against-mob-lynching-1446177.html. [12] Mausami Singh , Civil society moots law to stop mob lynching: MASUKA, INDTOD, (Oct. 2020, 24, 04:15 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/india/delhi/story/national-campaign-against-mob-lynching-masuka-manav-suraksha-kanoon-1023046-2017-07-07. [13] Draft law of ‘Manav Suraksha Kanoon’ (MASUKA) – National Campaign Against Mob Lynching, (Oct. 2020, 24, 02:00 PM), https://blog.ipleaders.in/draft-law-manav-suraksha-kanoon-masuka-national-campaign-mob-lynching/#_ftn8. [14] Saibal Chatterjee, Campaign against lynching gathers steam , CIVIL SOCIETY, (Oct. 2020, 25, 07:00 PM), https://www.civilsocietyonline.com/campaigns/campaign-against-lynching-gathers-steam. [15] Supra note 13. [16] Harsh Mander, Showing the way: on Manipur's new anti-lynching law, THEHINDU, (Oct. 2020, 25. 10:45 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/manipur-shows-the-way/article26007016.ece. [17] India lynchings: WhatsApp sets new rules after mob killings, BBC News, BBCN, (Oct. 2020, 25, 11:30 PM), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44897714. [18] Anusha Soni , Surveillance state, says Supreme Court on Centre's plans to monitor social media, INDTD, (Oct. 2020, 30, 03:12 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/we-seem-to-be-moving-towards-a-surveillance-state-says-supreme-court-1284678-2018-07-13. [19] Ashok Bagriya, To end mob lynching, Supreme Court gives an 11-point prescription HINTM, (Oct. 2020, 30, 11:15 PM), https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/to-end-mob-lynching-supreme-court-gives-an-11-point-prescription/story-pdknxkMYd3Caz3R27nSniP.html.

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