SC issues guidelines to check lynching, mobocracy


New Delhi, July 17: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued 22 guidelines for the central and state governments to put an end to “horrendous acts” of vigilantism, lynching and mobocracy and directed them to work in tandem to take “preventive, remedial and punitive measures”.

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A three-member Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also suggested that Parliament enact a law categorising lynching and other forms of vigilantism as a distinct offence and providing for adequate punishment.

“A special law would instill a sense of fear,” the Bench explained in its oral observations while hearing a batch of petitions seeking the court’s intervention to reign in vigilante groups who have become active of late across the country.

Of the 22 guidelines listed in the order, 12 dealt with preventive steps, nine with remedial measures and one punitive action against the police officers found wanting at any stage – prevention, investigation and expeditious trial.

The departmental action “shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months,” it said.

The other members of the Bench were Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The erring police officers may also be made to face action, other than departmental, it said.

The apex court asked the state governments to identify within three weeks the districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the last five years.

Each district should have a nodal officer, at least in the rank of SP, who will direct all the station house officers in the identified areas to be “extra cautious”.

The nodal officers should hold regular meetings, at least once a month, with the “local intelligence units” in the district along with all SHOs to identify the existence of tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching.

Steps should be taken to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means for inciting such tendencies.

“The nodal officer shall also make efforts to eradicate hostile environment against any community.”

“The Home Department must take the initiative and work in coordination with the state governments for sensitising the law enforcement agencies and by involving all the stake holders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching against any caste or community.”

The court asked the Centre and state governments to broadcast on radio, TV and other media platforms, including the official websites of the Home Department and the police, that lynching and mob violence will invite serious consequence under the law.

The bench also suggested a compensation scheme which must have a provision for interim relief to the victims within 30 days of the incident.

The cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated/fast track courts in each district, said the court, adding that such courts shall hold trial on a day-to-day basis and the trial shall preferably be concluded within six months.

The police should register FIRs against those who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos.

The bench recommended formation of special task force to gather intelligence about those likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.