"Horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to overrun the law of the land, the Supreme Court today said and asked Parliament to consider enacting a new law to sternly deal with mob lynching and cow vigilantism, warning that such incidents may rise like a "Typhon-like monster" across the country.
Asserting that there cannot be any investigation, trial or punishment out on the streets, the top court said it was the duty of the states to strive and promote fraternity amongst all citizens, as such mob violence was being instigated by intolerance and misinformed by circulation of fake news and false stories.
In a strongly worded 45-page verdict, it said "rising intolerance and growing polarisation", which has led to the spate of such incidents, "cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life", as the instances of lynching and mob violence were creeping threats which may gradually take the shape of a "Typhon-like monster".
In Greek mythology, Typhon is said to be a deadly creature or a monstrous serpentine giant.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also passed a slew of directions to the government to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures" to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.
"In times of chaos and anarchy, the State has to act positively and responsibly to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens. The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land.
"Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become 'the new normal'. The State cannot turn a deaf ear to the growing rumblings of its people," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The apex court said there was a need to enact a special law as it would instill a sense of fear for law amongst those who involve themselves in mob lynching.
The bench said it was the duty of state governments to ensure law and order in the society, besides ensuring that the rule of law prevailed.
"Mob vigilantism and mob violence have to be prevented by the governments by taking strict action and by the vigil society who ought to report such incidents to the state machinery and the police instead of taking the law into their own hands.
"Rising intolerance and growing polarisation expressed through spate of incidents of mob violence cannot be permitted to become the normal way of life or the normal state of law and order in the country," the court said.
It said that good governance and nation building required sustenance of law and order which is intricately linked to the preservation of the marrows of our social structure. "In such a situation, the 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 bench said.
It said that the authorities, conferred with the responsibility to maintain law and order in the states, have the principal obligation to see that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism of any perception, do not take place.
"When any core group with some kind of idea take the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society. Vigilantism cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be given room to take shape, for it is absolutely a perverse notion.
"We may note here that certain applications for intervention and written notes have been filed in this regard supporting the same on the basis that there is cattle smuggling and cruel treatment to animals. In this context, suffice it to say that it is the law enforcing agencies which have to survey, prevent and prosecute," the bench said.
The court noted that there has been an "unfortunate litany" of growing mob violence and "agonized horror, presenting a grim and gruesome picture that compels us to reflect whether the populace of a great Republic like ours has lost the values of tolerance to sustain a diverse culture.
"In the obtaining situation, the need to preserve and maintain unity amongst the fellow citizens of our country, who represent different castes, creed and races, follow different religions and use multiple languages, ought to be discussed and accentuated."
The order said it was required that "our country must sustain, exalt and celebrate the feeling of solidarity and harmony so that the spirit of oneness is entrenched in the collective character. Sans such harmony and understanding, we may unwittingly pave the path of disaster."
The judgement was delivered on a batch of petitions including Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Tushar Gandhi and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla seeking formulation of guidelines to curb incidents of mob violence and lynching in the country.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on August 20 and asked the Centre and the state governments to take steps to deal with such offences in pursuance of its directions and file a compliance report within four weeks.