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Analysing Mob Lynching in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita and Other Challenges

Mob lynching in India has emerged as a deeply troubling social issue, characterized by brutal acts of violence where individuals are targeted and attacked by large groups. These horrific incidents often result in severe injuries, leaving victims permanently scarred, or tragically lead to their deaths. The rise of mob lynching is a complex phenomenon, driven by a confluence of factors that have eroded the fabric of society and fostered a climate of fear and intolerance.

One of the most significant contributing factors is the presence of communal tensions, which have long simmered beneath the surface of Indian society. These tensions, often rooted in religious or caste-based differences, are easily exploited by individuals seeking to incite violence and hatred. Rumours, frequently spread through the pervasive reach of social media, act as a catalyst, fuelling the flames of anger and misinformation. These rumours, often unsubstantiated and deliberately fabricated, create a sense of panic and fear, galvanizing mob action.

Furthermore, deeply ingrained societal prejudices, such as those based on religion, caste, class, or ethnicity, provide fertile ground for mob lynching to flourish. These prejudices, passed down through generations, have created a culture of discrimination and exclusion, making certain groups more vulnerable to attacks. The perpetrators of mob lynching often exploit these existing biases, using them to justify their actions and demonize their victims. The irresponsible statements made by certain political figures have exacerbated the situation.

The severity of mob lynching in India demands urgent intervention. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach that tackles the root causes of violence and promotes a culture of tolerance and respect. This includes strengthening law enforcement, promoting media literacy to combat the spread of misinformation, and fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding. Only by addressing these underlying issues can India truly break the cycle of mob violence and ensure the safety and dignity of its citizens.

Legal Aspects:
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS) which came into effect on the 1st July, 2024 has introduced a new provision, Section 103(2) BNS. This section specifically addresses the crime of mob lynching.

Section 103(2) BNS states that when a group of five or more individuals acting in concert commit murder motivated by race, caste, community, sex, place of birth, language, personal beliefs, or any other similar grounds, each member of that group shall be punished with the death penalty or life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 7 years. They shall additionally be subject to the payment of a fine. Section 117 (2) BNS prescribes imprisonment of up to seven years and fine if grievous injury is caused to the victim in course of mob lynching.

Cases of attempts of mob lynching may be registered under section 103 (2)/62 BNS . The punishment may be one half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India emphasizes the dangerous consequences of mob violence. The court asserted that a group swiftly morphing into a mob cannot usurp the legal system, arbitrarily deeming individuals guilty and dispensing justice. Such actions not only violate fundamental legal principles but are also incompatible with a civilized society founded on the rule of law. These actions undermine the legal system's authority and are deeply reprehensible.

While the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Section 103, Subsection 2) addresses mob lynching, it notably omits religion as a specific motivating factor. However, the Supreme Court's judgment in the Tehseen S. Poonawalla case acknowledges the significant role religion often plays in fuelling mob violence. Recognizing this reality, several Indian states have implemented or tried to implement anti-mob lynching laws, explicitly incorporating religion as a potential driving force. These include the Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Ordinance (2018), the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill (2019), the Jharkhand (Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Prevention) Bill (2021), and the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill (2019).

Although the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita avoids mentioning religion directly, it uses broad terms like 'personal belief' and 'other factor' as potential grounds for mob violence. This broad phrasing could encompass religion within its scope, offering a potential avenue for tackling religiously motivated mob lynching.

Manipulation of Cases of Mob Lynching:

The integrity of investigations into mob lynchings is allegedly jeopardized by a range of manipulative tactics employed by investigating officers, local leaders, autopsy surgeons, public prosecutors and police. These tactics distort the truth and undermine justice for the victims and their families.

One common strategy is to misclassify the crime, registering it as culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 105 BNS instead of the more appropriate charge of lynching under Section 103 (2) BNS. This deliberate misclassification downplays the severity of the crime and weakens the case against the perpetrators.

Further manipulation occurs during the investigation itself. Investigating Officers may deliberately omit or distort crucial evidence, such as injury marks on the victim's body, resulting in incomplete inquest reports. By making fabricated post-mortem reports and seizing evidence selectively, an inaccurate record of the events may be created by the autopsy surgeon and the police in collusion.

The manipulation extends to witness handling. Innocent individuals may be implicated while real culprits are shielded, witnesses may be intimidated or coerced into providing false testimony, and arrests of the actual accused may be delayed or avoided entirely. This systematic manipulation ensures that the correct individuals are not brought to justice.

Finally, the motive behind the mob lynching is often suppressed or obscured, while false cases may be filed against those who expose the crime or seek justice for the victims. The entire investigation may be tainted by extraneous pressure and a lack of commitment to uncovering the truth. Such tactics not only subvert justice but also foster a climate of fearlessness and impunity for perpetrators, depriving victims and society of justice.


Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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