The Supreme Court on July 10 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 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 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 said the Home Ministry could meet with the departments 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 (STFs) 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 court 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.
“There have been at least 10 such instances in the last one year… Please direct the Centre and the State’s to file status reports,” advocate Shoeb Alam, for the petitioners who include activist Tushar Gandhi, urged the court.
The court directed the State Governments to file status reports detailing the steps taken by them to comply with the directions in the 2018 judgment.
The 45-page judgment, in 2018, had wondered whether the “populace of a great Republic like ours has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture?”
The litany of spiralling mob violence, their horror, the grim and gruesome scenes of lynchings were made worse by the apathy of the bystanders, numbness of mute spectators, inertia of the police and, finally, the “grandstanding of the incident by the perpetrators of the crimes” on social media, Chief Justice (now retired) Dipak Misra had written in the judgment.
Describing lynchings and mob violence as “creeping threats”, the court 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”.