(Source: PTI)

Supreme Court Has Its Say On Mob Violence. Is The Police Force Ready?

The Supreme Court's judgment urging India's parliament to make a law banning mob lynching will only be effective if the country's police force is made accountable.

That's according to Tehseen Poonawala, one of the petitioners in the case. "The problem is this that when a union minister garlands the accused or drapes the accused with a tricolour, that's when the police refuse to act. Hence there must be accountability in the police force," he told BloombergQuint in an interview. That's something Poonawala plans to lobby for with the law minister and home minister, following the top court's directive.

A panel of Supreme Court judges led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra today said India should create a "separate offence" for lynching and urged lower courts to hand down maximum sentences for crimes involving mob attacks. That comes after reports of a number of mob lynchings in rural areas stemming from fake social media rumours warning of child kidnappers as well as cow vigilantism.

Some of the guidelines laid down by the apex court include setting up a task force with a Nodal Officer in every district, identifying special target areas and collecting information on potential suspects. All these recommendations must be put in place in four weeks.

Poonawalla, along with Senior Supreme Court Advocate KTS Tulsi, had introduced a private member's bill proposing that "the District Officer be made in charge for any such acts of [mob] violence , the District Magistrate be made in charge and he oversee the investigation. An officer no lower than the rank of an IG [Inspector General] vet the charge sheet and the charge sheet be filed in two months."

While calling for more accountability in the police force, Poonawala said the problem is also political. "Whoever is in power, are the hidden faces of this mob violence," according to him. The private member's bill he introduced sought to see " who benefits politically from the violence".

Former additional director of police, PK Jain, agreed the police isn't the only one to blame. Incidents of mob violence are spontaneous and very difficult to control, he said. That's compounded by the fact that many recent incidents were fuelled by rumours on social media.

It is extremely difficult, almost impossible to control social media. The police do clampdown on the internet in extreme situations. It takes time, and by that time the damage is done.
PK Jain, Former Additional DGP, Mumbai Police

While the police do try hard to clamp down on mob-related violence, Jain believes public prosecutors and courts also have an important part to play to deter miscreants by pushing for harsher sentences. “The collection of intel is important and the determination on the part of the police force to deal with the people indulging in violence is a very important step,” he added.

Watch the full discussion here: