Mob lynching is the practise of punishing a person for any offence without the need for a court order. Growing incidences of vigilantism and mob lynching pose a threat to India’s societal framework. In India, there are frequent instances of mob assaults, torture, and honour killings. The right to live with dignity, as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, cannot be surpassed. Only legitimate methods may be used to take away what the law has granted. Therefore, no one has the right to violate another person’s personal dignity and impose laws on them. The Hon’ble courts will never allow vigilantes to overrule the law of the nation, and mob lynching cannot be made to become the new standard. Due to a lack of significant laws specifically pertaining to mob lynching in India, many incidents remain unrecorded and the hateful individuals responsible remain unknown. India’s democracy and pluralism are being disrupted by the politicization of this hatred. This issue requires changes to be made in several areas of the criminal justice system rather than relying on a single remedy. This paper examines how citizens, as a racialized mob act as a parallel judicial authority to impose death penalties, mob violence and eventually contribute to the establishment of mobocracy and owing to their supposed judgement over the suspected offenders affect their guaranteed constitutional rights, ultimately posing a threat to democracy.
Keywords: Mobocracy, Right to Life, Rule of law, Personal dignity, Vigilantism.
Mob lynching refers to the exercise of authority by a large group of individuals with the intention of penalising an individual who is believed to have committed a wrongdoing. In the context of India, incidents of lynching and mob violence often reflect underlying intercommunal tensions among various racial communities. Instances of honour killings, assaults, acts of torture, and mob violence are frequently observed within the India. The right to live with dignity, as articulated in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, is considered to be the highest right and is deemed inviolable. Mob lynching has no place within the framework of any civilised society. The act of taking a person’s life, whether carried out by an individual or a group, cannot be morally or ethically justified, regardless of the perceived justifications or reasons behind such actions. The occurrence of a lynching incident within a civilised society can result in the dismantling of the entire framework of legal and societal order. Therefore, it is impermissible for any individual to violate the inherent worth and value of another person’s humanity and assume the role of a vigilante. The normalisation of mob lynching must be prevented, as it is imperative that the judiciary upholds the rule of law and does not allow mob rule to supersede it. This study aims to analyse the structured thought patterns surrounding mob violence, which has significant implications for the societal challenges currently being confronted. The resolution of this issue necessitates a multifaceted approach, as it requires implementing reforms across multiple domains within the criminal justice administration.
DEFINITION AND THE CONCEPT OF MOB LYNCHING
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘lynching’as an act of killing that is carried out by a group of people in the absence of any legal authority. For the first time in Indian legal history, the nation-wide campaign against mob lynching resulted in the draft of the Protection Against Lynching Act 2017, which defined the terms lynching, mob, and victim of mob lynching. The Act defines “lynching” to include any act of violence or protest which is committed either on the spot or preplanned in order to execute an extra judicial punishment to impose any perceived social, cultural, legal and religious prejudices. 
Lynching is typically carried out by the majority or a preponderant group to silence dissenting voices in order to solidify their position and strengthen their status. To terrify and terrorise a wider number of individuals, it is typically done in the presence of a huge crowd. There is a pattern that is practically same in every incidence of lynching which are the assumption of guilt on the part of the accused, the mob’s unreasonable wrath and outrage, their arrogance in using force to take law into their own hands and enforce the law, and their assurance that they will get away with everything. The mob makes a complete mockery of the rule of law by taking on the role of a judgeunder the guise of acting as vigilantes.
MAJOR MOB LYNCHING INCIDENTS IN INDIA
- Kherlanji Massacre
In 2006, Four individuals were killed at Kherlanji in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district due to a property dispute, marking one of the earliest occurrences of lynching to be reported. On September 29, 2016, four members of BhaiyyalalBhotmange’s family were massacred by a mob of at least 50 people who broke into his home. Before being brutally murdered, Surekha, Bhotmange’s wife and their daughter Priyanka got paraded around the village nude and subjected to brutal sexual abuse. The assault happened after these ladies reported 15 residents to the police for deliberately harming a relative. In January 2017, eight of the 11 suspects were adjudged guilty.
- Dadri Lynching
Mohammad Akhlaq, aged 52, and his son Danish were beaten with clubs and bricks by a rural crowd in September 2015 shortly after they were accused of stealing and killing a cow calf as well as preserving and devouring cat. In the assault, Danish sustained fatal injuries. Akhlaq had been assaulted until he passed away. It was the very first time a Muslim was brutally massacred by a Hindu mob over meat and cows in Uttar Pradesh’s Bisara village, within close proximity to Dadri.
- Alwar Lynching
In Alwar city of Rajasthan, a Muslim cattle farmer named, Pehlu Khan, aged about 55 years, and not less than 14 other farmers were believed to be suspected of cattle smuggling by the mobs and was brutally attacked by them on the guise of serving justice. As a consequence of his injuries sustained by the said assault Pehlu Khan died two days later. On allegations of “smuggling animals such as cattle,” the Rajasthan Police filed a cross case against Pehlu Khan and others. But later it came to be known that those dairy farmers had official authorizations allowing them to transport the cows. 
- Viswanathan mob lynching
The unfortunate demise of Viswanathan, a 46-year-old tribesman from Wayanad, Kerala, was the result of a violent mob attack on the accusation of being a thief. Viswanathan, whose body was discovered on February 11 at Kozhikode Government Medical College, was subjected to interrogation and physical assault by a group of individuals in close proximity to the medical college. This incident occurred due to allegations of mobile phone theft.
RAMIFICATIONS OF MOB LYNCHING
The Constitution subversion occurs when individuals within a society fail to uphold democratic principles and instead engage in vigilantism. This phenomenon undermines the fundamental principle of the rule of law and grants individuals a position of privilege that exempts them from legal accountability. The act of mob lynching engenders a state of anarchy within any jurisdiction that permits its occurrence. It is in direct contravention of the fundamental rights of an accused individual, specifically the right to mount a defence and the right to a fair trial. Mob lynching thereby infringes on the victim’s constitutional rights. Thus, it poses a significant challenge to the fundamental principles of a democratic system and the overall survival of a nation-state.
Furthermore, mob lynching erodes public trust in the justice system and fosters a culture of fear and violence. It also hampers social cohesion by deepening divisions within communities and exacerbating tensions between different groups. The prevailing sentiment among the majority is one of apprehension towards the minority, while alternatively, the minority holds a sense of anxiety towards the majority. This reciprocal fear engenders a pernicious cycle, ultimately culminating in the abhorrent phenomenon of mob lynching. This particular form of criminal activity undermines the social structure and presents a significant challenge to the concept of harmonious coexistence amidst diversity. This creates a context characterised by a dichotomy between the majority and minority groups. There is a possibility for the exacerbation of caste, class, and racism. The potential threat to the unity and integrity of the nation arises from the sectarian division within Indian society.
In the context of India, the phenomenon of mob lynching has emerged as a criminal act that continues to evoke a persistent sense of fear and apprehension among the populace. In this particular context, there is a notable occurrence of dehumanisation towards individuals, which leads to the compromise of fundamental rights such as freedom as to their speech and expression, and personal autonomy. Furthermore, the absence of an inclusive environment discourages pluralistic thinking which in turn hinders the acceptance of diversity. The interdependence between various aspects of human existence, such as the fiscal, political, and social domains, as well as physical and psychological wellness, is evident. It is challenging to disentangle the individual influence of one aspect from another. In a parallel vein, when an instance of mob lynching or any other criminal act transpires within a given locality, its repercussions extend beyond the victim and the accused, encompassing the broader societal fabric. Ultimately, addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that involves strengthening the rule of law, promoting education and awareness, and fostering dialogue among various stakeholders to promote understanding and tolerance.
LYNCHING LAWS IN INDIA
In India, there is currently no formal legislation prohibiting lynching that allows for the mob to face legal repercussions. Mob crimes often involve killing, gang rape, serious injury, assault, harassment, and other crimes against accused or suspected perpetrators. Currently, cases of mob lynching and other incidents associated with vigilantism are prosecuted under sections 34, 120B, 147, 148, 149, 302, 307, 323, 325, and 341 of the Indian Penal Code. While these provisions may appear sufficient in theory, but their practical implementation yields disparate outcomes as the effect of mob lynching is only being punished and the act as such is not made punishable per se.
The Constitution of India envisages rule of law and the principle of equality under article 14. This Article thus guarantees equal protection to both victims and perpetrators of mob violence, ensuring that the law affords all legitimate opportunities without any discrimination. The Rule of Law serves as the fundamental basis of India’s democratic system. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees individuals the fundamental rights of life and liberty, which can only be deprived through lawful means. The governance of our nation is predicated upon adherence to the principles of the rule of law. This implies that individuals cannot be subjected to penalties unless their actions fall within the jurisdiction of the law. Through the act of lynching, the collective assembly assumes the role of law enforcement and administers what is commonly referred to as “justice”which is totally against the rule of law envisaged under the Constitution. Also, it becomes apparent that vigilantes frequently function as an extension of khap panchayats. These vigilantes engage in actions that bypass the established legal procedures, as they identify a specific individual as the purported wrongdoer and subsequently carry out acts of execution or intimidation with the intention of compelling them to depart from the local community. These actions constitute a direct violation of the constitutional rights afforded to individuals as outlined in Article 15.
Sections 149 to 152 of the Code of Criminal Procedure confer broad authority on law enforcement officials, enabling them to take proactive measures to deter the commission of crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the legislation. Also, section 151 permits the making of preventive arrests in cases of where there is scepticism that the mob will commit violent crimes, such as committing murder, gang assaults, serious bodily injury, aggravated harassment, etc. Mob lynching incidents are typically associated with crimes that are punishable by law. The provision for joint prosecution of individuals accused of the same offence committed within the same transaction is outlined in Section223 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973. However, it has not been established that these legal provisions have effectively ensured prompt justice for the victim. Therefore, in the absence of specific legislation, our judiciary is unable to provide swift relief and justice to the victim and their family in all instances.
Upon careful examination of the current laws and legal framework, it becomes evident that they do not adequately address the issue of lynching, particularly in cases involving mob violence. The call for legislation addressing the issue of lynching has prompted the collective action of civil society, resulting in the proposal of the Manav Suraksha Kanoon . This proposed law aims to comprehensively address the multifaceted dimensions of lynching. The proposed legislation known as the Mob Lynching Act, 2017, has been put forth by the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching (NCAML). The NCAML is a committee comprised of distinguished individuals who have drafted this legislation with the aim of addressing the issue of mob lynching and providing protection against such acts. 
The salient features of the bill are as follows:
- The bill endeavours to safeguard the constitutional rights of the victim of a mob assault by providing fair trial, offering victim rehabilitation and financial assistance for their families as a consequence of the tragedy.
- It provides for the establishment of specialised courts to facilitate prompt and efficient dispensation of justice.
- Additionally, this Bill enables the imposition of substantial penalties, which varies from one lakh to five lakhs, contingent upon the gravity of the violation perpetrated. And imposes rigorous imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description to extend about 10 years depending upon the severity of the offence.
- The District Magistrate and the Police officers are obligated to carry out their duties under the bill in order to prohibit and prevent the act of mob lynching in the area, in violation of the same, they are penalized for an imprisonment with maximum period of 6 months and/ fine for their dereliction of duties.
- The aforementioned legislation renders mob lynching conspiracy, abetment, and assistance punishable as if the offence had been perpetrated.
- Witness protection measures have been provided under the bill such as the preservation of the witness’s identity and address to upheld confidentiality throughout the trial, the entitlement to receive free legal assistance and is authorised to engage the services of a legal representative of their choice and the state government are obligated to ensure the safeguarding of victims and witnesses from all forms of violence.
- It empowers the State Government to establish a review committee in cases where a charge sheet has not been filed within a period of three months from the initial registration of the First Information Report. In the event that the committee determines the need for an investigation, then fresh investigation to be conducted by a police officer holding the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police or higher. 
- THE BHARATIYA NYAYA SANHITA, 2023
Section 101 of the bill imposes joint liability of death/life imprisonment or imprisonment of not less than 7 years with fine for a mob of 5/ more persons acting in concert on their supposed impositions based on their religion, sex, caste, birth place, language or other grounds of personal belief. 
LANDMARK JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS
In the landmark case of Tehseen S Poonawalla vs. Union of Indiathe Supreme Court strongly opined that mob lynching is against rule of law and the act of lynching was officially categorised by the court as a manifestation of unadulterated mob violence.  The Hon’ble court consisting of Chief Justice Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, asserted in judgement about the increasing desensitisation of the average Indian citizen towards the frequent occurrences of lynchings taking place within a society that upholds the principles of the rule of law. The court emphasised that both the Centre and the States had a responsibility to ensure that individuals refrain from taking the law into their own hands or assuming the role of a self-appointed authority.
The court additionally noted on the rise of mob vigilantism stating that when a particular group possessing a shared ideology assumes authority outside the legal framework, it precipitates a state of anarchy, leading to chaos, disorder, and ultimately the emergence of a society characterised by violence. The act of lynching is a violation of the principles of the rule of law and the esteemed values enshrined in the Constitution, regardless of its motivation or origin, has the consequence of eroding the authority of legal and established state institutions, thereby disrupting the constitutional framework/ The court emphasised on the unbreakable essence of nation stating that the fundamental unity of a nation remains unbroken by the divisive barriers of caste, class, and religion, it is the responsibility of governments to prevent mob lynching and violence through the implementation of stringent measures.
The Bench also emphasised the significance of diversity and acceptance as fundamental elements of a true liberated and democratic society, and underscored the necessity of safeguarding these principles. The statement asserts that a modern democracy based on constitutional principles must strongly emphasise the inclusion of diverse perspectives and approaches in order to maintain harmony and unity. The manifestation of intolerance stemming from a rigid and inflexible mindset gives rise to societal unrest and significantly inhibits the exercise of intellectual autonomy and the ability to freely articulate ideas. Therefore, it is imperative to cultivate and implement tolerance, ensuring that it is not compromised in any way.
The implementation of various preventive, remedial, and punitive measures was recommended by the Hon’ble Court in order to address the issue of the lynching and violence by mobs. The court has issued an order directing both the Centre and the States to execute the prescribed measures and submit reports of their compliance within a period of four weeks. The measures are as follows,
- The designation of a Nodal Officer in each district by the State Governments is mandated, specifically not below the rank of Superintendent of Police. The Nodal Officer will receive assistance from a District Superintendent of Police (DSP) in implementing measures aimed at preventing instances of lynching and violence. A proposal to be made to establish a dedicated task force with the purpose of gathering intelligence reports.
- The court has obligated the State Governments to promptly identify Districts, Sub-Divisions, as well as Villages where incidents of mob violence and lynching have been reported within the past five years.
- The Secretary of the Home Department in the respective States are obligated to issue directions or advisories to the Nodal Officers of the relevant districts.
- The Nodal Officer is required to convene regular meeting and is responsible for implementing measures aimed at preventing the spread of offensive content through various channels, to mitigate animosity towards any particular group or caste.
- The quarterly examination of all Nodal Officers and State Police Intelligence heads should be conducted by the Director General of Police/Secretary, Home Department of the affected States.
- It is incumbent upon each police officer to utilise their authority in accordance with Section 129 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to disperse a crowd engaged in acts of lynching.
- The Indian Home Department are obligated by the court to work with state governments to improve law enforcement awareness and include all essential stakeholders to avoid mob violence and lynching against any caste or tribe.
- Both the Central Government and State Governments are obligated to undertake measures aimed at restraining and halting the circulation of offensive messages and other forms of content on diverse social networking platforms that possess the potential to incite acts of mob violence and lynchings. And to take action against them.
- The court urges the police officials to register FIR immediately on receiving notice of the commission of instance mob lynching without any delay and the station house officer should immediately intimate the same to the nodal officer.
- The Nodal officer is duty bound the oversee the investigation and need to make sure the charge sheet is filled within the timeframe given under the legislation
- The State Governments are obligated by the Supreme court to prepare the victim compensation scheme in accordance with the section 357A of the CRPC within a month after the pronouncement of this judgment.
- Fast tract court need to be constituted in each of the districts to deal with the cases of mob lynchings exclusively. The trail needs to be completed in a span of 6 months.
- The trial courts are obligated to impose the highest possible sentence as outlined in the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
- The courts have the authority to take appropriate measures to protect and conceal the identity and address of witnesses .
- The individuals who have been victimised or the legal representatives of the deceased in instances of mob violence and lynching shall receive prompt notification of any judicial proceedings and shall have the right to be present and to submit written statements.
- Free legal assistance will be extended to the victims or their next of kin who have suffered fatalities as a result of mob violence and lynching incidents.
In the event that a police officer or district administration officer neglects to adhere to the aforementioned instructions pertaining to the prevention, investigation, and expeditious trial of mob violence and lynching, such actions shall be deemed as intentional negligence or misconduct. In instances of this nature, it is imperative to undertake suitable measures against the officer, potentially surpassing departmental action as stipulated by the service regulations. The initial authority will conclude the departmental action within a period of six months. The Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu Court ruling mandates that state authorities take appropriate action against officials who, despite being aware of an impending incident, either neglected to prevent it or failed to promptly apprehend the perpetrators and initiate legal proceedings.
“When a mob lynches a person for the food that she or he eats, it is the Constitution which is lynched. When we deny human beings the power of love for reasons of religion or caste, it is the Constitution made to weep”
-Hon’ble Mr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud
The potential of Mob rule, fuelled by intolerant young individuals who are influenced by the spread of rumours, can lead to the downfall of a nation resulting in anarchy. Mob lynching in India occur owing to variety of factors. Owing to the diversity of the nation there is an increasing intolerance among the mobs. The State is obligated to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all individuals, regardless of their race, caste, class, or religion. The State is primarily responsible for promoting a secular, pluralistic, and multicultural social order that facilitates the free expression of ideas and beliefs, as well as the coexistence of conflicting perspectives. Restricting freedom of expression is detrimental to the functioning of a genuine democracy. Creating inclusive societies that value diversity and restoring public trust in governmental institutions are crucial objectives.
Currently, India is witnessing a multitude of occurrences characterized by acts of lynching and mob attacks. The act of engaging in lynching activities that specifically target individuals based on their identity can be seen as a clear manifestation of discrimination against an entire community, thereby violating the principles set forth in Article 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution of India. Given the current concern surrounding mob attacks in the country, it is crucial to establish specific legislation and rigorously enforce implementation protocols in order to quickly and effectively combat these attacks and appropriately penalize those responsible. In order to ensure the protection of the inherent right to life, as stated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, it is crucial to uphold the fundamental tenets of the Constitution. The urgent need at the moment is to establish legislation that can serve as an effective deterrent against individuals who participate in acts of lynching, as it is widely acknowledged that no individual possesses the legitimate authority to independently dispense justice.
Hence, it is apparent that an ultimate solution to the issue of mob lynching remains elusive. The implementation of certain structural reforms is imperative, necessitating the development of region-specific action plans that take into account the prevailing circumstances on the ground. It is crucial to involve local communities in this process. The complex issue of lynching poses a significant challenge with no readily available resolution. The responsibility of State legislatures should not be confined solely to enacting legislation that imposes severe penalties. It is imperative for state legislatures to maintain ongoing engagement with the issue at hand. The extent of their involvement should encompass a comprehensive examination of the budgetary needs of the police and judiciary, as well as a consistent scrutiny of the State administration’s responsibility for any instances of unlawful lynching within the State.
- The promotion of a sense of nationalism and unity among individuals is necessary to address the issue of intolerance stemming from diverse characteristics.
- The primary focus should be made to enhance the digital literacy of social media users by way of media awareness campaign in order to inculcate the ability of individuals to discern between accurate and inaccurate information and to recognise the importance of consuming and sharing only safe content.
- Establishment of a government-operated online platform is need of the hour to control mob lynching owing to rumours and to verify the authenticity of news articles and promptly notify users if any content is determined to be false.
- There is a need to establish an administration and police force that is unbiased and impartial. The elimination of perceived political influence in administration during instances of mob violence is imperative. The State Government should fully implement the police reforms directive issued by the Supreme Court.
- Effective measures should be implemented to hold police authorities accountable for their failure to take cognizance of the case and for potentially obstructing the investigation.
- Measures should be taken by the governing body to facilitate expeditious dispensation of justice, which includes prompt registration of the First Information Report, eliminating the practise of filing cross cases that exacerbate the suffering of vulnerable and impoverished individuals.
- In order to facilitate identification, it is recommended that a dedicated team be established to enhance the process of identifying the individuals responsible, as it is evident that the perpetrators remain unidentified, thus enabling them to evade accountability for their actions.
- It is vital to establish a dedicated investigative team with no political interference, solely focused on cases of mob lynching, unencumbered by additional responsibilities.
- It is imperative that tranquillity committees be made compulsory in all regions with the inclusion of individuals who possess secular and visionary qualities from diverse religious backgrounds. Regular organisation of peace committee meetings is essential. And the active involvement of the district administration in engaging with such committees is crucial for the promotion of religious and caste harmony.
- There is a need for a comprehensive endeavour to guarantee the availability of employment and skill development opportunities within the various realms for minority communities. Efforts should be undertaken to ensure that these activities are conducted within the mainstream of Indian society, with a focus on enhancing representation.
- The government should take action to pass the draft bill suggested by the civil society, known as Manav Suraksha Kanoon. This law proposes that measures such as making mob lynchings a cognizable offence, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and imposing a life sentence together with a time-bound trial, compensating the families of victims, and police intervention to protect witnesses.
- Victims or their families should receive appropriate compensation and relief for the losses they have endured, alongside the provision of free legal aid to ensure their access to justice.
- It is essential considering a ban on gaurakshak dals and other vigilante groups, and taking strong action against their activities.
- The resumption of publishing data on mob lynching and mob violence by the National Crime Records Bureau holds significant value in addressing the issue at hand.
- Individual citizens can contribute by demonstrating attentiveness and vigilance towards the information disseminated on various platforms, including social media. FIR to be registered on individuals who disseminate false information.
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