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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 31 New Delhi July 21, 2018

SC’s Plainspeak and Mob Attack on Agnivesh

Saturday 21 July 2018, by SC


Once again the country’s Apex Court has risen to the occasion to unambiguously meet the challenge of mob vigilantism.

“Horrendous acts of mobocracy can’t be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence, which can’t be allowed to become the new normal.”

These were the considered views of the Supreme Court aired yesterday. It adopted a series of “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to deal with lynchings and mob vigilantism. A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud was delivering its judgment on petitions filed by social activist Tushar Gandhi and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala seeking actions against cow protection groups. The SC Bench was convinced that it would be “appropriate to recommend to... Parliament to create a separate offence for lynching and provide punishment for the same.... as a special law in this field would instil a sense of fear for law amongst the people who involve themselves in such kinds of activities”. It further placed the entire onus on the state in this regard stating that the latter was tasked to “ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively in maintaining peace so as to preserve our quintessentially secular ethos and pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by the rule of law”, unequivocally adding that “in times of chaos and anarchy, the state has to act positively and responsibly to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens”.

And yet, despite such clear-cut directives of the SC Bench, shorn of any trace of doublespeak, what is the ground reality? On the very day the SC judgment came, 80-year-old social activist Swami Agnivesh was “kicked, punched and showed black flags allegedly by a group of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) workers and ABVP activists in Pakur, Jharkhand”, according to correspondents of The Times of India reporting from Dumka/Ranchi. The same report disclosed by quoting witnesses that the “attackers targeted the activist for taking part in an event at the ‘behest of Christian missionaries to mislead tribals’“. Yet another testimony of mob violence generated by the culture of intolerance growing under the benign indulgence and active patronage of those currently in power in most of the States besides the Centre.

One more reason why it is becoming imperative to ensure that the present dispensation does not return to power in the coming Lok Sabha polls slated for next year.

July 18 S.C.

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