States are obligated to stop lynchings, observes Chief Justice of India

He asks the Centre to frame a scheme under Article 256 to give directions to theb States to prevent such incidents.

July 03, 2018 02:58 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 10:44 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

Lynchings and mob violence cannot happen by the remotest chance. It is the obligation of the States to see that such crimes are prevented, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra observed on Tuesday.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Misra was hearing a contempt petition filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla that despite a Supreme Court order to the States to prevent lynchings and violence by cow vigilantes, the crimes continue with impugnity.

“Whether there is a law or not [against lynchings]... nobody should be allowed to take law into their hands,” the CJI said.

“Despite your order to the States to appoint nodal officers to prevent such incidents, recently there was a lynching and death just 60 km away from Delhi,” senior advocate Indira Jaising submitted.



“Each State shall be held responsible. Law and order is the State’s responsibility,” the CJI observed orally.

'These crimes have a pattern'

Ms. Jaising said incidents of lynchings went “beyond the description of law and order... these crimes have a pattern and a motive. For instance, all these instances happen on highways. This court had asked the States to patrol the highways.”

“Let us not confine ourselves to any pattern or motive... All these incidents are instances of mob violence,” the CJI responded.


He asked the Central government to frame a scheme under Article 256 to give directions to the States to prevent/control the instances and maintain law and order.

Scheme is unnecessary: ASG

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P.S. Narasimha, however, disagreed, saying such a scheme was unnecessary. “The concern here is maintaining law and order. The question is whether the State governments can implement your directions,” he said.

Ms. Jaising said the Union had issued advisories but not backed it up with action.

“The Union feels responsible... we don’t need to be advised by you,” Mr. Narasimha reacted to Ms. Jaising.

“There is a difference between ‘feeling’ and ‘action,’” Ms. Jaising replied. She said lynchings were “targetted violence” against particular religion, caste, and thus, in violation of the constitutional guarantees under Article 15 of the Constitution.

Article 15 protects one from discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, gender, etc.

She said the compensation to be determined for victims of lynchings should be fixed with an eye on the fact that they were targetted for their religion and caste.

But the CJI objected to the suggestion, saying “anyone can be a victim” of such mob violence, irrespective of their religion or caste or sex.


The CJI said the criteria for determining compensation would not be their religion or caste but the nature of injury — simple or grievous — or death. “Anyone is a victim and not just those under Article 15. This has more potential than Article 15,” he observed.

But Ms. Jaising said she was referring to a “specific form of vigilantism. Targetted violence against vulnerable categories seen here is different from general violence,” she submitted.

However, the CJI intervened to say that the term “victim” included anyone living in a constant state of fear. “Victims should be protected,” he underlined, reserving the petition for orders.

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