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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today made the Centre and the state governments accountable for mob violence and lynching and asked them to take steps to curb and stop the dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages and videos on social media platforms which incite such incidents.
Passing a slew of directions to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures", the top court asked the state governments to designate a senior police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, as nodal officer in each district.
It said such nodal officers should be assisted by a DSP rank officer in the district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
They shall constitute a Special Task Force so as to procure intelligence reports about the people who are likely to commit such crimes or who are involved in spreading hate speeches, provocative statements and fake news.
"The states shall forthwith identify Districts, Sub-Divisions and/or Villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past, say in the last five years.
The process of identification should be done within a period of three weeks from the date of this judgment, as such time period is sufficient to get the task done in today's fast world of data collection.
"The Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall issue directives/ advisories to the Nodal Officers of the concerned districts for ensuring that the Officer In-charge of the Police Stations of the identified areas are extra cautious if any instance of mob violence within their jurisdiction comes to their notice," the 45-page verdict said.
The court said the nodal officer should hold regular meetings, at least once a month, with the local intelligence units in the district along with all station house officers to identify the existence of the tendencies of vigilantism and mob violence.
"The Director General of Police/the Secretary, Home Department of the concerned States shall take regular review meetings (at least once a quarter) with all the Nodal Officers and State Police Intelligence heads.
The Nodal Officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues at the State level," the bench said.
The court said it was duty of every police officer to disperse a mob by exercising his power under Section 129 of CrPC (Dispersal of Unlawful Assembly), which has a tendency to cause violence or wreak the havoc of lynching in the disguise of vigilantism.
"The Home Department of the Government of India must take initiative and work in coordination with the State Governments for sensitising the law enforcement agencies and by involving all the stakeholders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching against any caste or community and to implement the constitutional goal of social justice and the Rule of Law.
"The Director General of Police shall issue a circular to the Superintendents of Police with regard to police patrolling in the sensitive areas keeping in view the incidents of the past and the intelligence obtained by the office of the Director-General.
It singularly means that there should be seriousness in patrolling so that the anti-social elements involved in such crimes are discouraged and remain within the boundaries of law thus fearing to even think of taking the law into their own hands," the bench said.
The top court ruled that the Centre and the state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites of the Home Department and Police of the States that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
"It shall be the duty of the Central Government as well as the State Governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
"The police shall cause to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
The Centre shall also issue appropriate directions/advisories to the states which would reflect the gravity and seriousness of the situation and the measures to be taken," the bench said.
It also issued punitive measures and said if a police official or an officer of the district administration has failed to comply with these directions it shall be considered as an act of deliberate "negligence and/or misconduct" for which appropriate action must be taken.
"The departmental action shall be taken to its logical conclusion preferably within six months by the authority of the first instance. In terms of the ruling of this Court. The States are directed to take disciplinary action against the concerned officials if it is found that such official did not prevent the incident, despite having prior knowledge of it, or he did not promptly apprehend and institute criminal proceedings against the culprits."