Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Nobody can become self-appointed guardian of law: SC

By Garima Tyagi (ANI) | Updated: Oct 01, 2018 22:34 IST

New Delhi [India], Oct 1 (ANI): Nobody has the right to become a self-appointed guardian of the law, the Supreme Court on Monday said, while asking the state governments to act strictly against persons involved in vandalism and hooliganism during protests.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud said that the crimes committed by groups of "self-appointed keepers of public morality" may be on account of different reasons, but the underlying purpose of such group of persons is to exercise "unlawful power of authority" and that too, without the sanction of the state, and "create fear in the minds of the public" or section of the community.
"Nobody has the right to become a self-appointed guardian of the law and forcibly administer his or her own interpretation of the law on others, especially not with violent means. Mob violence runs against the very core of our established legal principles since it signals chaos and lawlessness and the state has a duty to protect its citizens against the illegal and reprehensible acts of such groups," the bench said in its judgement.
The court's verdict came on a plea filed by Kodungallur Film Society that highlighted law and order problems arising out of the release of several films, especially the violence surrounding the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Padmaavat' earlier this year.
The top court opined that in addition to being patently illegal and unlawful, such acts of violence highlight a "deeper malaise", one of intolerance towards others' views which then results in "attempts to suppress alternate viewpoints, artistic integrity and the freedom of speech and expression" guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
"Indeed, the people who perpetrate such actions, especially against private parties, do so without fear of consequence and reprisal, probably believing that private parties do not have the wherewithal to hold them accountable for such actions," the judgement stated.
Issuing a slew of directions to tackle such incidents, the apex court said that the state must step in and perform its duty by taking measures to prevent such actions from occurring in the first place, ensuring that law-enforcement agencies exercise their power to bring the guilty parties to book and imposing time-bound and adequate punishment for any lapses.
The court was of the view that a comprehensive structure will have to be evolved in the respective states so that the issues of accountability and efficiency in curbing incidents of peaceful protests turning into mob violence, causing damage to property including investigation, remedial and punitive measures, are duly addressed.
It directed that any person found to be carrying prohibited weaponry during protests or demonstrations would prima facie be presumed to have an "intention to commit violence" and be proceeded in that regard as per law.
The state governments should set up district wise Rapid Response Teams which are specially trained to deal with and can be quickly mobilised to respond to acts of mob violence, said the court, adding that teams can also be stationed around vulnerable cultural establishments.
The state governments should set up special helplines to deal with instances of mob violence.
To minimise mob violence, the bench directed that authorities must consider the use of non-lethal crowd-control devices, like water cannons and tear gas, which cause minimum injury to people but at the same time, act as an effective deterrent against mob force.
The authorities must ensure that arrests of miscreants found on the spot are done in the right earnest, it added.
It further directed that if a call to violence results in damage to property and has been made through a spokesperson or through social media accounts of any group or organisations or by any individual, appropriate action should be taken against such person.
Fixing the responsibilities of the Police, the apex court directed that when an act of violence results in damage to property, concerned police officials should file FIRs and complete investigation within the statutory period and submit.
"Any failure to file FIRs and conduct investigations within the statutory period without sufficient cause should be considered as dereliction of duty on behalf of the concerned officer and can be proceeded against by way of departmental action in right earnest," stated the judgement.
The persons, who have initiated, promoted, instigated an act of violence against cultural programmes or which results in loss of life, damage to public or private property shall be made liable to compensate the victims of such violence, held the bench.
"This compensation should be with regard to the loss of life or damage was done to any public or private properties, both movable and immovable," the top court said, adding that these directions be implemented by the Centre and state governments as expeditiously as possible within eight weeks.
The plea, which was filed at the time of the release of 'Padmaavat', when Rajput groups, including the Karni Sena, had launched nationwide protests and resorted to vandalism, had sought framing of guidelines to deter acts of vandalism and hooliganism carried out in the name of public protests. (ANI)