The Supreme Court on July 28 asked the Centre and at least six States to respond to a plea about lynchings and mob violence refusing to stop.
The plea said gruesome incidents of mob fury and vigilantism continue to happen despite a five-year-old apex court judgment, which had made the government machinery squarely accountable for protecting the lives of victims, including minority community members.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice B. R. Gavai, senior advocate Kapil Sibal began by requesting the court not to tell him to go to the High Courts.
He said the incidents span across multiple States. The victims should not be made to go to all these High Courts. “Even if they did, they might end up getting ₹2 lakh each as compensation,” Mr. Sibal said.
The senior lawyer, appearing for the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), highlighted how the 2018 judgment of the apex court in Tehseen Poonawala case had foretold that lynchings and mob violence were “creeping threats” and need to be nipped in the bud.
The court had warned that the rising wave of frenzied mobs — fed by fake news, self-professed morality and false stories — would consume the country like a “typhoon-like monster”. “We are issuing notice,” the Bench told Mr. Sibal.
The court asked the Home Ministry and heads of police forces of Maharashtra, Orissa, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh to respond to the petition.
On July 10, the apex court, had in a separate case, decided to take stock of what the Centre and State governments have done so far to punish lynchings, mostly spurred by communal hate, since its July 2018 judgment.
The judgment had condemned these “horrendous acts of mobocracy” as an anathema which requires a special law and punishment.
A Bench of Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Bela M. Trivedi, on July 10, had directed the State governments to file year wise data, from 2018, regarding the complaints filed, FIRs registered and challans submitted in courts concerning incidents of mob violence and lynchings.
The court had said the Home Ministry could meet with the Department heads concerned of States and provide an updated status on measures taken by them to comply with the preventive remedial measures directed by the Supreme Court on its July 17, 2018 judgment in Tehseen Poonawala case.
The judgment had directed States to form Special Task Forces to collect intelligence on likely incidents of hate speeches, mob violence and lynchings in districts. The judgment had made it clearly the duty of the Central and State governments to take steps to curb and stop the dissemination of explosive messages, videos, etc, which have a “tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”.
The 2018 judgment had directed that the police were duty bound to register FIRs, arrest the accused, carry out effective investigation and file charge sheets in complaints of mob violence and lynchings.