Supreme Court Judgment- Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India (2018) 6 SC 72
In recent years a lot of incidents have come to light where mobs have lynched individuals under the guise of cow vigilantism. In most of the incidents of lynching, it was later found out that the controversy was a fake one generated by hate propaganda and there was no truth in the allegations which led to the lynching of the innocent people.
There were huge protests against such activities and people from all quarters raised their voice against such incidents. Efforts were made by a lot of individuals belonging to different fields and areas to create awareness amongst people against such incidents and the misuse of the social media which was being done to plant fake stories and news which ultimately resulted in such incidents.
After the brutal lynching incidents in Delhi and Haryana, the petitioner who was a public spirited social activist petitioned the court for directions and intervention in the violence being spread by cow vigilantes and protection groups.
The primary relief for directions was with regard to seeking immediate and necessary protection from vigilante and fringe groups which had taken recourse to violence under the garb of cow protection. Another relief sought was for the removal of inflammatory contents from the social media platforms which was being circulated by these groups.
It was argued that no one shall engage in an activity of lynching just on the basis of a perception that an offence had taken place. It was pointed out that activities which amounted to mob violence and lynching were to be checked by the executive and must not go unnoticed. Reliance was placed on the case of Vahini v. Union of India (2018) 7 SCC 192.
After making a reference to Martin Luther king, it was argued that law can be invoked and used to keep the man from lynching him. It was stated that over the recent days there was increased activity of violence and incidents of mob lynching were taking place where the target audience was the members of the minority communities.
It was stated that the primary reason for such activities was the circulation of false news and information which was based on the suspicion that the victims were engaging illegally in activities of cattle trade etc.
It was further argued that that the Central Government had the power to intervene in the matter by using its power which had been vested in it by Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution for issuing directions to the State Governments.
The respondents were the Central Government and State Governments and they duly assisted the Hon’ble Supreme Court in coming up with guidelines on the issue at hand.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court after listening to the arguments and suggestions formulated the following guidelines and measures:
- Measures for preventing the Incidents
- A senior police officer was to be appointed as a Nodal Officer by the state governments in each district and a special task force shall be constituted for procuring intelligence reports potential perpetrators.
- The State Governments shall identify areas, where there were the incidents of mob violence and lynching, had occurred previously.
- Personnel deployed in identified areas are supposed to remain extra cautious.
- Regular meetings shall be held by the nodal officer.
- Police Officers must use their power under Section 129 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, in order to deal with incidents of mob violence and in situations where he thinks that a similar situation may arise in front of him.
- Remedies for the incidents
- FIR in such cases must be lodged immediately.
- The police station where the FIR is lodged must forward the same and inform about it to the Nodal Officer.
- The investigation is to be monitored by the Nodal Officer who must that the investigation is carried out effectively and the charge-sheet in filed timely.
- A compensation scheme shall be formulated by the state governments for helping the family of the victims.
- Fast Track courts or special courts to be established in order to try the cases of lynching and mob violence.
- The trial is to be held on day to day basis and shall be concluded within 6 months from the commencement
- Maximum sentence is to be awarded in order to set a staunch example in cases of mob violence and lynching when an accused is found guilty.
- The identity and address of the witness is to be concealed for protection of the witness.
- Free legal aid is to provided to the victim or his next of kin.
- The criminalization of such activities
- In case where it is found that a police officer or public officer who belongs to the district administration has failed to abide with the directions of the court in order to prevent or facilitate the expeditious trial of any such incident of mob violence and lynching, then it shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and misconduct.
- Such an act is to be punished by the government and departmental inquiry is to instituted against such an officer.
- If it is found that an officer did not prevent the incident of violence or lynching even when he was aware and had knowledge about its taking place then action is to be taken by the concerned governments against such officers.
- In cases where the incident has already occurred and the official did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits then also action is to be taken by the concerned governments against such officers.