SC’s Lynching Order: A Gentle Reminder That Law Still Exists

The Supreme Court asserted that fear of law is the foundation of a civilised society.

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 17 July, recommended that Parliament create a special law against lynching, asserting that “fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilised society”.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud addressed a number of important and timely issues, like the fear of law, the role of the government, cow vigilantism and fake news.

Here are the key highlights from the apex court’s order:


On Growing Mob Vigilantism

The Supreme Court made some firm comments on the growing problem of mob vigilantism and said that such lawlessness must be nipped in the bud.

No individual in his own capacity or as a part of a group, which within no time assumes the character of a mob, can take law into his/their hands and deal with a person treating him as guilty.  
Supreme Court

“There cannot be an investigation, trial and punishment of any nature on the streets. The process of adjudication takes place within the hallowed precincts of the courts of justice, and not on the streets,” the three-judge bench’s order read.

On Lynchings and Mob Violence

The bench warned the governments of the horrors of failing to control the mob violence that has erupted as a resulted of increasing intolerance.

“Unless these incidents are controlled, the day is not far when such monstrosity in the name of self-professed morality is likely to assume the shape of a huge cataclysm.”

Hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice ought not to be tolerated; lest it results in a reign of terror.  

Threat to the Nation

When any core group with some kind of idea takes the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, the emergence of a violent society, the Supreme Court said.

Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be given room to take shape, for it is absolutely a perverse notion.

On Fake News and Lynchings

Referring to the recent spike in lynchings due to rumours spread on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Supreme Court warned about the threat arising from misinformation.

Lynching and mob violence are creeping threats that may gradually take the shape of a Typhon-like monster as evidenced in the wake of the rising wave of incidents of recurring patterns by frenzied mobs across the country instigated by intolerance and misinformed by circulation of fake news and false stories.  

The Government’s Role

Lastly, the apex court pointed out that the government has a “sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens from unruly elements and perpetrators of orchestrated lynching.”

“There can be no shadow of doubt that the authorities which are conferred with the responsibility to maintain law and order in the States have the principal obligation to see that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism of any perception, does not take place,” it added.

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’.  

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