Calling for a special law to deal with incidents of lynching and vigilantism, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that a slew of “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures be adopted to deal with such offences across the country.
The court directed state governments to designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police and assisted by a DSP, as nodal officer in each district to take steps to prevent mob violence and lynching. The two officers will in turn constitute a special task force to collect intelligence on those likely to commit such crimes or be involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.
In three weeks, states should identify places where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the last five years. The Secretary, Home department, of the states concerned shall issue directions to nodal officers to ensure that the officer in-charge of police stations remain vigilant.
The nodal officer shall hold monthly meetings with local intelligence units and Station House Officers to identify tendencies of vigilantism, mob violence or lynching and take steps to prohibit instances of dissemination of offensive material through social media or any other means.
The Director General of Police of the state or Secretary, Home department, must hold regular review meetings with nodal officers and state police intelligence heads.
The court asked the Union Home Ministry to take the initiative and work in co-ordination with state governments to sensitise law enforcement agencies in identifying measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching.
The judgment said “it shall be the duty of the central government as well as the state governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind” and ordered registration of “FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”.
For remedial measures, it asked state governments to prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme within one month. It should have a provision for interim relief to be paid to the victim(s) or next of kin within a period of thirty days of the incident.
Cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated court/fast track courts. There should be day to day basis hearings and it should be “preferably concluded within six months from the date of taking cognizance”, the court directed, adding this will also apply to pending cases.
“To set a stern example in cases of mob violence and lynching, upon conviction of the accused person(s), the trial court must ordinarily award maximum sentence as provided for various offences under the provisions of the IPC”, the Supreme Court said.
Ordering punitive steps, it said failure on the part of police officers to comply with its directions should be “considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct” and appropriate action, not limited to departmental action, should be taken.