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Stringent punishment for mob violence.

 

By Aneeta Synrem

Mob violence and lynching are serious problems in our country.  With the increasing use of social media, there is an increase in circulation of fake and provocative news, leading to violence and mob lynching. In the last five years, our country had witnessed several incidents of mob violence and lynching in the name of cow theft and killing. Consequently several innocent people have lost their lives and many sustained grievous injuries. There has also been an increase in incidents of mob lynching on allegations of witchcraft and child abduction. The situation is very dismal as such cases pose serious threats to the rule of law and the country’s social fabric.

In the last 40 years, Meghalaya had witnessed several incidents of mob violence. The 1979 violence was the worst kind followed by the violent incidents of 1987 and 1992. During each of these violent incidents a particular community was the victim and obviously it is the marginalized community. The state had also witnessed mob violence in 2013 during the ILP agitation where innocent people had lost their lives. The most recent incident being the May-June 2018 mob violence at Motphran, Shillong arising out of a scuffle between few Khasi boys with the non-locals and provocative rumours spread on social media within a short span of time making the situation most volatile. Fortunately, this time no precious lives were lost but the trouble mongers had left no stone unturned to terrorize the marginalized group, thus forcing hundreds of people including children, women and the aged to take shelter in protected areas. At that time the role of the Government was also unclear. Be that as it may, the issue here is mob violence and lynching.

            The main causes of mob violence and lynching are: (a) hatred (b) vengeance, (c) rumour-mongering, (d) sudden provocation, (e) superstition (f) presumption of guilt of commission of offence or derogative act by the victim, (f) impunity etc.  In the present day, the main source of spreading mob violence and lynching are fake and provocative messages, objectionable videos on social media like WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook.  Having gone through those provocative messages, the mob shun their reasoning and resort to violence taking the law into their own hands with impunity.  

The Supreme Court in its judgment dated July 17, 2018 passed in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 754 of 2016 between Tehseen S. Poonawalla –vs- Union of India and others had issued several guidelines to be followed by the centre and the state to prevent mob violence and lynching.  Besides that    the Apex Court had recommended to the Parliament to create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same.  But the NDA government is over zealous to introduce instead the Bill in the Lok Sabha to criminalize triple talaq by pretending to be completely ignorant of the fact that marriage under the Muslim law is a civil contract, therefore, for any breach or wrong to a civil contract, the remedy always lies in civil action. But sadly, the present government had so far not made any law for protection of the life of citizens from mob violence and lynching.

            Manipur is the first state in the whole country which had taken a concrete steps toward protecting people from mob violence and lynching by passing a bill i.e., “The Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Bill, 2018” on December 21, 2018. The bill recommends rigorous life imprisonment for those involved in mob violence, if it results in the death of the victim. And in addition to life imprisonment, the Bill also recommends a fine of Rs 5 lakh for those involved in mob lynching.

The increasing trend of mob violence in our state needs to be dealt with firmly by the government so as to uphold the rule of law. The Meghalaya government needs to ponder on the issue of protection of people from mob violence. It is hereby suggested that without any further delay our state government should make a law which provides for death penalty to the perpetrators of mob violence if it results in the death of the victim  and rigorous life imprisonment with fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh for mob violence that causes grievous hurts to the victim or destruction of public/ private property.  Provision should also be made for conducting the trials involving mob violence in special courts within a time frame and the investigation of such cases be done by SIT (Special Investigation Team) led by a senior IPS officer of the district where such violence took place and the investigation be completed within a stipulated time period, with a further provision to pay adequate compensation/financial assistance to the victim or his family. Stringent punishment alone would deter the mob from taking the law into their hands with impunity.

 

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