Tahseen Poonawala Case

Context: The Supreme Court has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and the governments of six States to respond to a petition by the National Federation of Indian Women seeking an explanation for their failure in the past five years to act against lynching and mob violence.

Tehseen Poonawala vs Union of India

Supreme Court in this case suggested guidelines for preventive, remedial and punitive measures to be taken by government in instances of mob lynching. 

The Court also asked Parliament to categorise “lynching” as a separate offence and provide adequate punishment for the same.  

Guidelines by the Supreme Court

Preventive Measures
Nodal Officer not below the rank of SPTo prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching State Governments shall designate, a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as Nodal Officer in each district. Who shall be assisted by one of the DSP rank officers in the district for taking measures.
Special Task Force to procure intelligence on cases of mob lynchingA special task force, to procure intelligence reports, shall be constituted by State Government to check hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.
Identifying Vulnerable AreasThe State Governments shall forthwith identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
Nodal Officer to hold regular meetings with the local intelligence units in the district along with all Station House Officers of the districtTo identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching in the district and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through different social media platforms or any other means for inciting such tendencies.
Identify and Eradicate Hostile Environment in the vulnerable AreaThe Nodal Officer shall also make efforts to eradicate hostile environment against any community or caste which is targeted in such incidents.
DGP of State to take stock of situation from District OfficialsThe Director General of Police/the Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall hold regular review meetings (at least once a quarter) with all the Nodal Officers and State Police Intelligence heads. The Director General of Police shall issue a circular to the Superintendents of Police regarding police patrolling in sensitive areas.
Home Ministry to Co-ordinate with State Government to sensitize the law enforcement agenciesBy involving all the stake holders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching against any caste or community and to implement the constitutional goal of social justice and the Rule of Law.
Create Awareness Against the Evil of Mob LynchingThe Central and the State Governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites of the Home Department and Police of the States that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
Remedial Measures
Filing FIR without delay by the Police to register crimeIn incidents of lynching or mob violence, the jurisdictional police station shall immediately cause to lodge an FIR, without any undue delay, under the relevant provisions of IPC and/or other provisions of law.
Intimating Nodal Officer about Investigation StagesThe Station House Officer shall intimate the Nodal Officer who shall be duty bound to ensure that the investigation is carried out effectively and the Report of police officer on completion of investigation (charge sheet) in such cases is filed without undue delay from the date of registration of the FIR or arrest of the accused.    
State must provide Compensation To compute compensation, the State Governments shall give due regard to the nature of bodily injury, psychological injury and loss of earnings including loss of opportunities of employment and education and expenses incurred on account of legal and medical expenses.
Cases of Mob Lynching to be tried by Fast Track CourtThe cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated court/Fast Track Courts earmarked for that purpose in each district. Such courts shall hold trials of the case on a day-to-day basis. The trial shall preferably be concluded within six months from the date of taking cognizance.
Awarding Maximum SentenceTo ensure deterrence and to set an example, the trial court must ordinarily award maximum sentence as provided for various offences under the provisions of the IPC.   
Safety Measures to protect VictimsThe Court must take appropriate measures for the safety of such victims for protection and for concealing the identity and address of the witness.
Victims to receive Legal Aid through NALSAThe victims or the next of kin of the deceased in cases of mob violence and lynching shall receive free legal aid if he or she so chooses and engage any advocate of his/her choice from amongst those enrolled in the legal aid panel under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.    
Punitive Measures 
Act of deliberate Negligence or Misconduct on failure to protect victimsWherever it is found that a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to comply with the aforesaid directions in order to prevent and/or investigate and/or facilitate expeditious trial of any crime of mob violence and lynching, the same shall be considered as an act of deliberate negligence or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken against such officer.  
State to take Disciplinary Action against Erring OfficialsAs per Supreme Court judgment in Arumugam Servai v. State of Tamil Nadu, the States are directed to take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that such official or group of officials did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or where the incident has already occurred, such official(s) did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits.

Mob Lynching (ML)

The term Mob lynching means “unlawfully hanging or otherwise killing a person by mob action”. One of the major causes of mob lynching is hate speech.

  • Lynching involves injury or murder of a person who is criminal or accused of a crime against the community or a society.
  • Most of the victims of mob violence in India have been the minority groups of Muslims, Dalits and few racially tortured African tourists.
  • The lynching has been carried out in cases of witch-hunting, caste-based atrocities and most commonly bovine slaughter especially cows.

History of Lynching The concept of taking law into one’s hand to punish a criminal said to have originated during the American Revolution phrased as ‘Lynch Law’ which is a punishment without trial.During 1800’s in America, lynching used to be a form of punishment for presumed criminal offences by self-appointed ‘mobs of justice’.

Causes of ML

  • Creation of fear in the minds of the people through various means e.g., fake news, hate speechs etc.
  • Absence of belief in justice delivery system and police administration.
    • The loss of people’s faith in the Rule of Law. 
    • People have started believing in the principle of Justice delayed, justice denied.  
  • Role of social media: The increasing number of smart phones and internet access has increased and has strengthened the effect of online hate speech, fake news etc.
  • Rumours which Instigate people and ultimately lead to mob lynching.    
  • Indian Penal provisions neither defined lynching nor considered as a crime.

Legal Mechanism  

Indian Legal System neither defines lynching nor provides punishment for it. But it has been dealt with different legal mechanism in India: 

Indian Constitution

  • Rule of Law (Art 14) is the cornerstone of Indian Democracy. According to this Rule of Law, a person shall not be punished without the authority of law.
  • Article 21 provides for Right to life and personal liberty which shall not be infringed.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) 

  • Such cases are covered under Section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing voluntary hurt), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons) and 149 (unlawful assembly)

Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)

  • Section 223(a) of CrPC contains the provision for persons being charged jointly for the same offence committed during the same transaction. 
  • Section 144 of the code empowers the Executive Magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four persons in an area. 


Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill

The draft Bill prohibits discrimination based on caste, race, ethnicity, descent, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religious identity, tribe, disability, linguistic identity, HIV-status, nationality, marital status, dietary preference, skin tone, physical appearance, place of residence, place of birth and age.

Right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed to every citizen. The act of taking life through the vehicle of mobocracy is murder of democracy. It is to be noted that the top priority of a democratic government should be the safety and security of its citizens.

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