SC blames lynchings to rising intolerance and polarisation

New Delhi [India]: Condemning increased instances of violence due to cow vigilantism and lynching across the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday urged Parliament to consider a new law to prevent such incidents, and underscored that violence can’t be allowed in the name of vigilantism. A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud, directed the central and state governments to take preventive and remedial measures to stop lynching incidents in future.

“Mob vigilantism and mob violence have to be prevented by the governments by taking strict action and by the vigil society who ought to report such incidents to the state machinery and the police instead of taking the law into their own hands. Rising intolerance and growing polarisation expressed through spate of incidents of mob violence cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life or the normal state of law and order in the country,” the court stated.

“The primary goal of law is to have an orderly society where the citizenry dreams for change and progress is realised and the individual aspiration finds space for expression of his/her potential. In such an atmosphere while every citizen is entitled to enjoy the rights and interest bestowed under the constitutional and statutory law, he is also obligated to remain obeisant to the command of law,” CJI Misra said.

“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. When any core group with some kind of idea take the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society. Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be given room to take shape, for it is absolutely a perverse notion,” he added.

It was further noted that certain applications for intervention were filed in this regard supporting the same on the basis that there is cattle smuggling and cruel treatment to animals.

“In this context, suffice it to say that it is the law enforcing agencies which have to survey, prevent and prosecute. No one has the authority to enter into the said field and harbour the feeling that he is the law and the punisher himself. A country where the rule of law prevails does not allow any such thought. It, in fact, commands for ostracisation of such thoughts with immediacy,” the apex court stated.

“Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself,” the court said.

“The tumultuous dark clouds of vigilantism have the effect of shrouding the glorious ways of democracy and justice leading to tragic breakdown of the law and transgressing all forms of civility and humanity. 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. It is in direct violation of the quintessential spirit of the rule of law and of the exalted faiths of tolerance and humanity,” the Supreme Court added.

Here are observations made by the Supreme Court condemning the acts of cow vigilantism:

1. Horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be allowed to become the new norm and have to be curbed with iron hands.

2. No citizen can take law into their own hands. Self-appointed vigilantes can’t be allowed to take law in their hands.

3. In case of fear and anarchy, the state has to act positively. Violence can’t be allowed.

4. It is duty of State to ensure rule of law is preserved.

5. State Governments to maintain the secular structure and legal system of the country.

“Good governance and nation building require sustenance of law and order which is intricately linked to the preservation of the marrows of our social structure. In such a situation, the State has a sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens from unruly elements and perpetrators of orchestrated lynching and vigilantism with utmost sincerity and true commitment to address and curb such incidents which must reflect in its actions and schemes,” it added.

The court will next hear the matter on August 28.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on July 3 reserved its verdict on pleas by social activist Tehseen Poonawalla and Tushar Gandhi, who prayed to the court to initiate contempt against states that failed to take measures to combat cow vigilantism.

The bench had also termed cow vigilantism as ‘unacceptable’ and stated that mob lynching is ‘beyond law and order problem’.

Tushar had also filed a contempt plea against some States, accusing them of not enforcing the earlier orders of the court.

Article 256 of the Constitution, which spells the obligation of States and the Union, provides that the Centre could give necessary directions to the States in a given situation, but the Centre had said it could issue advisories to the states as law and order was a state subject.

The apex court had in September last year, directed all the state governments and union territories to take active steps to put a full stop to the violence in the name of cow protection and asked them to designate special officers who would keep a strong vigil on the ‘vigilante groups’.

With ANI inputs