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SC seeks response from Centre, 6 states on compensation for mob lynching victims

ByAbraham Thomas
Jul 29, 2023 12:21 PM IST

The Court directed automatic registration of FIR under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and directed states to prepare a compensation scheme for victims of lynching/mob violence

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre and police chiefs of six states on a public interest litigation (PIL) alleging rising incidents of cow vigilantism and mob lynching against Muslims.

Supreme Court of India (File Photo)
Supreme Court of India (File Photo)

The PIL also demanded compensation for victims in six cases reported over the past two months and raised concerns about the lynching mob violence against Muslim, particularly done by cow vigilantes, despite the apex court guidelines issued in the 2018 Tehseen Poonawala case to prevent and curb such crimes.

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A bench of Justices BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala issued notice to the Centre and the six states, including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Maharashtra on the plea filed by the National Federation of Indian Women.

“We will issue notice,” the bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal who told the Court that while such relief can be sought from the high court, this petition presented six cases of mob lynching and cow vigilantism reported from six different states.

“If I go to high courts, ultimately what do I get? I will be paid Rs.2 lakh compensation after 10 years. Where do we go then,” Sibal said, arguing the petition for the women’s body which raised the cause of the Muslim women being left behind after the male members of the family were lynched and killed.

The petition prayed for a “minimum uniform amount” to be paid as compensation to victims, a portion of which to be paid upfront for helping victim families to tide over their immediate needs.

The bench told Sibal, “You pre-empted our question of asking you to approach the high court.” The veteran lawyer answered, “In one such case you asked me to go to the high court so I knew that and pre-empted it.”

The petition drafted by advocate Rashmi Singh said, “In view of the alarming rise in cases of lynching and mob violence against the Muslim community, the petitioner is seeking a writ in the nature of mandamus to the concerned state authorities to take immediate action in terms of the findings and directions in Tehseen Poonawalla case to effectively contain and deal with the same.”

Noting the “shocking upsurge in incidents of mob violence”, the petition compiled six such instances, with two instances from Maharashtra reported on June 8 and 24, respectively, involving three men who were brutally assaulted for allegedly smuggling beef of whom two died while one is undergoing treatment at a Mumbai hospital.

The petition also narrated the brutal killing of a 55-year-old Muslim truck driver in Bihar on the suspicion of carrying beef and thrashing of two Muslim men in Khandwa (Madhya Pradesh) who were stopped by Bajrang Dal workers on the eve of Eid-ul-Adha and beaten up for carrying allegedly beef.

There were two other instances related to mob violence in Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) and Kota (Rajasthan) presented in the petition. In one such incident which took place on June 17, the petition described the violent attack on two Muslim men in Odisha who were restrained using ropes, subjected to assault, humiliated and forced to walk through piles of garbage.

In Rajasthan, a bus carrying several Hajj pilgrims was attacked by a violent mob in May. Stones were pelted on them resulting in injuries to several people.

The petition said that the Tehseen Poonawala judgment recognises the positive duty of the state to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all individuals and to foster a secular, pluralistic and multiculturalist social order.

“The state authorities have abjectly failed in making any sincere attempts to tackle this menace,” the petition said, adding that such incidents are the result of the “general narrative of ostracization of the minority communities” spread through hate speeches at public events, social media, news channels and films.

“The result is that a poison of general communal hate and divide has taken over large portions of the populace. This hatred is the precondition of crimes of lynching and mob violence,” it added.

The Poonawala judgment took note of the string of violent incidents of mob lynching by vigilante groups and held it to be unacceptable. The judgment delivered in a PIL proceeding said, “State has a sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens from unruly elements and perpetrators of orchestrated lynching and vigilantism with utmost sincerity and true commitment to address and curb such incidents which must reflect in its actions and schemes.”

The decision proposed all states appoint a nodal officer to be a police officer not below superintendent of police rank to prevent such instances. The Court directed automatic registration of FIR under Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and directed states to prepare a compensation scheme for victims of lynching/mob violence.

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