Article by PRIYADARSHEE MUKHOPADHYAY,
On June 17, 2019 24 year old Tabrez Ansari was found allegedly stealing a motor bike, he was then caught by a lynch mob and reportedly tied to a pole and beaten for 12 hours which eventually resulted in his death on June 22nd. However, this incident was neither rare nor unusual for the eastern state of Jharkhand in India as it was the 14th lynching in the last 4 years and for India the count was 266th. Mob lynching is a blatant violation of the basic human rights and goes against the mandate of the universal conventions which aims to protect them. Additionally, the state has a positive obligation to realize the Constitutional promise to safeguard the citizens.
Taking cognizance of a report filed with OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) on the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari, United Nations has asked for the details of the case in order to initiate an investigation. This issue was also heard at the United Nations (UN)’s Security Council meet held at the UN headquarters in New York on July 1, 2019 during the 17th Meeting of the 41st Regular Session that was held before UN’s Human Rights Council.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND INDIA’S OBLIGATIONS
India is signatory to international treaties and convention, and incidents of violence such as lynching are a direct contravention of Article 7 (equality before Law) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 20 (2) of to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law). The existence of lynching challenges the fundamental concepts of justice system like presumption of innocence and fair trial.
The magnitude of this issue is realized when we venture into the recent history of such events in India. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took suo motu cognizance of media reports of 28 years old Rajendra who was pulled out of a police van and beaten to death by a mob in the presence of Constables in Shamli, Uttar Pradesh on 26th November, 2018. This was bound to raise grave doubts on the functioning of the government and the Law Enforcing Departments. Rather than preventing such abominable crimes the States passive inaction and ignorance led to the legitimization and normalcy of Lynch law in India which now calls for international attention.
DISSECTING THE RECENT AGITATION: A FRANKENSTEIN IN MAKING?
The lynching of dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan in 2017 by a mob of 200 vigilantes created a massive anti-mob lynching movement. It was widely covered by the press which culminated in an emblematic case which was expected to be the torchbearer for curbing the lynching havoc in India.
On 14th August, 2019, after 2 years of the incident, the Court of Additional District Judge(Sessions Court) in Alwar, Rajasthan acquitted all 6 accused men. The Court observed gross negligence in the ground level investigation as the cause of the seemingly open and shut case’s collapse. This judgement comes as a catastrophic development in the anti-mob lynching movement due a series of factors. The accused were given “benefit of doubt” in the absence of adequate evidence. Firstly, this whole incident was captured visually in the form of a video which was available for investigation. Secondly, the victim named his assailants in a dying declaration. Such facts cast grave doubts on the adequacy of the evidence and subsequently on the competence of the law enforcement and investigation departments.
Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union of India, is a landmark case which was headed by the former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in which preventive, remedial and punitive measures were laid down by the Supreme Court (SC) while dealing with mob lynching in India. While the landmark case speculated about compensatory scheme and free legal aid for the victims, in reality Pehlu Khan’s family is barely surviving due to the financial drainage for their want of justice. The concluding recommendation of the case was creation of a separate offence for lynching, however, as of now NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) neither recognizes ‘Mob Lynching’ as a separate branch of crime nor maintains separate statistics on it.
CONCLUSION: A WAKE UP CALL FOR THE INDIAN JUDICIARY.
While the State turned a deaf ear to the SC’s recommendations, in 2017, a new law, MASUKA(Manav Suraksha Kanoon) (Protection from Lynching Act) was proposed to tackle mob lynching. But even after two years since MASUKA came into existence, the draft is still struggling to become a law while Indian lynching epidemic is on a cancerous growth. The MASUKA suffers from the same fate as that of American anti-lynching Dyer Bill which was made a law after 100 years of its existence and 200 failed attempts. Violence like mob lynching, if not nipped in the bud, possesses cataclysmic potential to push the nation which was founded upon Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence principle into a delinquent state of anarchy. Violence like this which are seemingly immune to legal measures cause complete collapse of the public’s faith on the Judiciary and the current steps taken by the Indian Government are consistently proving ineffective. It is in times like this that rule of law gets challenged which not only casts doubt upon the very foundation of our civilisation but also paralyse the law which maintains our humane society.
Priyadarshee Mukhopadhyay is a second year law student at National Law University, Odisha. He is an editorial board member of the NLUO Student Law Journal and NLUO Human Rights Law Journal. He was part of the Decoders Team under Troll Patrol India Project conducted by Amnesty International India in association with Twitter. He has previously written for blogs like Wolters Kluwer Competition Law Blog and London School of Economics and Political Science(LSE) Gender Studies Blog ‘Engenderings’ His areas of interests are Gender Studies, Human Rights, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology and Indian and European Competition Law.