New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday urged the Parliament to enact a separate law to deal with mob lynchings so that “fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilized society".
“The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence, which cannot be allowed to become “the new normal", Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed in the 45-page order.
A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by the CJI delivered a slew of directions for preventive, remedial and punitive action, while hearing a clutch of public interest litigations.
The Union home ministry, however, is yet to decide on the course of action. “We will chalk out an action plan after consulting with the different state police departments. Once they give their inputs, we will decide on how to proceed with the enforcement of the same," said a senior home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
While the BJP reacted with caution, the opposition tore into Prime Minister Narendra Modi and central government. “We are sure the government will respond," said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
Reacting to the apex court ruling, Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “The PM and the central government should be ashamed."
“Supreme Court’s comments to the Modi government to curb mob lynching shows that the problem has reached epidemic proportions," said the official Twitter account of Congress.
The court also asked the Centre and state governments to prevent dissemination of “irresponsible and explosive" messages, videos and other material across social media platforms and work in coordination to prevent lynchings. The court asked the state governments to prepare a victim compensation scheme.
The Centre and state governments must broadcast across all media platforms that lynching and mob violence of any kind attracted serious penal consequences, the court said.
The court further directed the state governments to designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of a superintendent of police, as a nodal officer in each district.
The jurisdictional police station shall immediately register an FIR in case of an act of lynching and the nodal officers would ensure that the family members of the victim do not suffer any more harassment at the time of trial by a designated court, or fast-track courts. Such special courts would be established in each districts and would hold trial on a day-to-day basis in order to conclude it within six months from the date of taking cognizance.
According to senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, the court’s observations are mere recommendation, as it has no power to issue a mandamus directing the Parliament to enact a law. “Even if there is a mob that is lynching, provisions are already existing in the Indian Penal Code with respect to common intention to commit crime, murder, conspiracy. Ultimately, implementation is the more important part," said Dwivedi.
The matter will be next heard on 20 August.
Shaswati Das and Gyan Verma contributed to the story.