Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Judiciary must take proactive steps to stop lynching, punish perpetrators.


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Role of judiciary in protecting Fundamental Rights


The October 4 order by the chief judicial magistrate of Muzaffarpur is worrisome in so far as he entertained a petition by a serial litigant, directing the police to register an FIR against 49 eminent citizens who had written a letter to the PM to intervene and stop lynchings. 

Supreme Court observations

    • The constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India in its judgment of July 2018 held that authorities which are conferred with the responsibility to maintain law and order in the States have the principal obligation to see that vigilantism of any perception does not take place.
    • When any core group with some kind of idea takes the law into their own hands, it ushers in anarchy, chaos, disorder and, eventually, there is an emergence of a violent society.
    • Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself.
    • Hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice ought not to be tolerated; lest it results in a reign of terror.
    • The Court laid down various guidelines for the central and state governments — including preventive, ameliorative and punitive measures.
    • It directed the appointment of nodal officers by the police in each district of every state in this regard.
    • It also recommended the Parliament to create a separate offense for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same.

Role of judiciary

    • Though the right to life is a Fundamental Right, the violations in these types of cases go unpunished or under-punished. 
    • In a large number of cases of this kind, the judges have been extremely lenient towards the perpetrators. Acquittals in virtually open-and-shut cases have come at regular intervals, as in the Pehlu Khan lynching case. 
    • The orders for granting bail by the Jharkhand High Court in the Ramgarh lynching case, by the Allahabad high court in Bulandshahr lynching case, by the Bombay High Court in Dhule lynching case, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Junaid lynching case, and, by the sessions court in Hapur lynching case, are some of the instances which raise serious question marks on the judicial approach of the courts in India towards such heinous crimes. 
    • The grant of bail to the convicted and accused in the Gujarat riot cases add to this list of avoidable decisions. 
    • This is compounded by the approach of the police in improperly investigating cases and not taking them to their logical end before the courts. 

Way ahead

    • The SC and the high courts to take up such cases of acquittals/grant of bails suo motu, and pass appropriate orders after hearing concerned parties. 
    • This should be the approach of the entire judiciary, which is the ultimate protector of the Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. 
    • The judiciary needs to undergo extensive sensitisation programs to deal with such matters.
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