Jungle Justice: The New Justice Swing Of The Indian Populace

This Article aims to delve into the issues pertaining to the growing menace of vigilantism or 'jungle justice' in India writes Prachi Dubey.

  • Prachi Dubey


In Simple words, jungle justice can be viewed as the lynching of suspected criminals for any crime, such as murder, armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, petty theft, blasphemy to even witchcraft. Jungle justice is far from impartial. It's a type of mob rule in which people take the law into their own hands and punish suspected criminals for actions they believe necessitate social condemnation . The victims are denied rights to which everyone in the rule of law is entitled. The punishment is frequently brutal, involving stoning or public burning of the unlucky persons.


Jungle justice practitioners usually declare an alleged perpetrator guilty based on some locally accepted code of conduct or morality standard. Jungle justice is frequently carried out quickly, with local police observing without doing anything. Jungle justice is a significant human rights violation that is still happening in Africa. It can be seen that Individuals take the law into their own hands because of the stagnation seen in the formal Court process. Such form of justice is further attributable to lack of confidence in Judiciary, law enforcement agencies and arbitrary and non-uniform application of law. Delay in Trials is also a key contributor to rise in mob or jungle justice. It is because of the sluggish speed of the Justice dispensation, which has contributed to the rise in Jungle Justice. According to Hauwa Yusuf, a criminologist at Nigeria's Kaduna State University, most jungle justice victims are innocent of the offences they are punished for.

Jungle justice is a direct infringement of Human Rights and violates every aspect of the Geneva Convention and it must be stated that any form of mob-justice in any country is a direct infringement on the rule of law of that Country and strikes at the root of dealing with crime and criminalisation of any offence.


Since May 2014, a violent vigilante movement against cow slaughter believed associated. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 persons were lynched in 12 Indian states; majority of whom were Muslims. Approximately 280 persons were harmed in over 100 distinct instances across 20 states within the same period.

So-called cow protection organisations have led the attacks, with many claiming to be associated with violent Hindu organisations. Cows are sacrosanct to many Hindus, and cow protection groups have sprung up throughout the nation. The majority of their victims are Muslims or members of the Dalit (previously known as "untouchables") and Adivasi (indigenous) groups.

"Calls for cow protection may have begun as a ploy to win Hindu votes, but they have evolved into a free licence for mobs to assault and kill members of minority groups," said Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch's South Asia director. "Indian authorities should cease encouraging or rationalising such acts, blaming victims, or shielding the perpetrators."

The court suggested that a victim compensation scheme be established and that all such matters be heard in expedited courts. The court further stated that any police officers or government employees who refuse to follow these orders should face the consequences. While numerous states have appointed officers and issued circulars to police authorities to combat mob violence, most of the court's other directions have yet to be implemented.


Initial investigations into mob attacks, according to the police, might take time. According to a senior police source, the recent Swaroop Nagar incident, in which a lady was assaulted and disrobed on suspicion of theft, "The woman was thrashed on suspicion, but the public is unaware that publicly disrobing her is a crime in and of itself. The police and the court are performing their duties. A crowd has no sense of direction and has no fear of the law," a top police official remarked.

A mob in Uttar Pradesh murdered Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, and gravely wounded his 22-year-old son in September 2015 following claims that the family had butchered a calf for beef. Following public outrage—and because an opposition party then ran the state—police arrested many people, including the son and family of a local BJP leader. Hindu supporters of the defendants retaliated by vandalising a police van and other cars. Several top BJP officials have applauded the accused' alleged activities. As a result, Akhlaq's family was forced to flee the area. The trial is yet to commence, although it has been more than three years. The victims' relatives are concerned since all defendants have been freed on bond.

"Those who are dying without eating beef can go to Pakistan or Arab countries or any other part of the world where it is available."

"I had promised that I would break the hands and legs of those who do not consider cows their mother and kill them."

India exports over $4 billion worth of buffalo meat each year, making it the world's largest beef exporter. On the other hand, Exports have been steadily declining since the BJP took control in 2014. A government economic assessment found that "despite having a big cow population, India's proportion of cattle leather exports is low and diminishing due to restricted availability of animals for slaughter," according to a government economic survey.

In July 2018, the Supreme Court in Tehseen S. Poonawalla & Ors. v. Union of India urged the federal and state governments to make public statements and promote the word that "lynching and mob violence of any type will result in significant legal consequences." As a result, the home minister informed parliament that the government had established a commission to recommend steps to prevent mob violence. "If necessary, we will likewise bring legislation," he stated.

The court also ordered the state governments to appoint a senior police officer in each area to avoid mob violence, guarantee that culprits are apprehended quickly, and protect victims and witnesses. It advocated for a victim compensation plan and stated that all such matters should be treated in expedited courts, with victims or family members receiving prompt notification of all court proceedings, including petitions for bail, discharge, release, or parole submitted by the accused. Finally, the court stated that any police or government personnel who refuse to follow these directions should face the consequences.


"Hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological supremacy, and prejudice must not be accepted; lest it culminates in a reign of terror," the Supreme Court declared in a July 2018 judgement on the rise in mob attacks, including cow vigilantism. Extrajudicial elements and non-state actors must not be permitted to act instead of the law or the law enforcement agency."

Despite the rising tide of intolerance and attacks on minorities, the government fails to gather reliable hate crime data per international human rights norms. "If we are to see an end to hate crime in our society, one an important requirement is for trustworthy, evidence-based, and unbiased statistics regarding the prevalence and character of hate crimes across the country," said A.P. Shah, former chief judge of the Delhi High Court." The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance's 2002 Programme of Action also asked countries to collect, assemble, evaluate, distribute, and publish reliable statistical data to aid policymakers.

A three-judge Supreme Court panel issued a series of directions in July 2018 to combat mob violence and deaths using "preventive, remedial, and punitive" methods. The court also urged that the legislature create a separate crime of lynching and give commensurate punishment.
The court ordered the state governments to appoint a nodal officer in each district, who must be a senior police officer with at least the superintendent of police, to avoid mob violence and guarantee that police respond quickly to perpetrators. The court ordered the federal and state governments to issue public declarations and propagate the message that "lynching and mob violence of any type shall be met with strong legal consequences." It also stipulated victim compensation and mandated their protection. Finally, the court stated that any police or government officer who fails to follow these orders should face the consequences.

According to Indira Jaising, a prominent counsel in the case, the Supreme Court judges addressed the necessity for the central government to accept responsibility for the nationwide mob violence: "The centre can no longer claim that this is a law and order issue that the state must address." According to Jaising, a new anti-discrimination statute should be enacted that assures superior responsibility. "It's easy for a government to sacrifice a beat policeman who stood by as a guy was lynched, but what about the police commissioner who failed to stop it from happening right in front of his eyes?" Shouldn't he be held just as accountable?"


Domestic and international law require India's national and state governments to safeguard religious and other minority communities and punish those responsible for discrimination and violence against them thoroughly and equitably. Constitutional provisions and domestic legislation impose a duty on the Indian government to protect minority populations' fundamental rights, prosecute those who engage in communal violence, and punish complicit state officials who fail to intervene despite having the power and responsibility to do so. The Indian Constitution's Articles 14, 15, and 16 give all people the right to equal treatment before the law and equal protection under the law. The right to life is guaranteed under Article 21. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act safeguards Dalits and tribal people's rights and rehabilitates victims of crimes against them.

Article 19 of the Constitution ensures that all people have the freedom to engage in any lawful employment, trade, or enterprise. The Supreme Court has also ruled that under Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to life encompasses the right to a livelihood.

India is a signatory to many key international human rights accords. "The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity and require governments to provide equal legal protection to their citizens.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICERD) requires states to criminalise any acts of violence motivated by racial, ethnic, or national origin. Article 4 of the ICERD compels governments to classify "any acts of violence or instigation to violence against any race or group of individuals of another colour or ethnic origin" as criminal crimes.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) affirms the right to work under Article 6, "which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to earn a livelihood through employment that he freely chooses or accepts," and states that governments must protect this right. In its General Comment No. 18 on the Right to Work, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights stated that ensuring non-discrimination and equal employment protection is the governments' "fundamental commitment". Because employment discrimination can have a significant impact on an individual's or group's work situation, governments should "avoid any measure that results in discrimination and unequal treatment of disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups in the private and public sectors, or that weakens mechanisms for their protection."


The attacks in the name of cow protection disproportionately harm Dalits and Muslims. While Muslims manage the majority of slaughterhouses and meat stores, Dalits have historically disposed of cow corpses and skinned them for commercial reasons like leather and leather items. However, the rural economy has impacted all Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, tribal, or nomadic populations. "It's not only about Muslims," said P. Sainath, an author, journalist, and specialist on India's agricultural sector, who added that Hindus of all castes have been affected. For example, he claims that many people who own cattle cannot sell them due to poor cattle prices or mob attacks. As a result, they either watch their livestock perish or abandon them. Farmers and herders aren't the only ones affected; dealers and others involved with livestock are also affected. "At the livestock markets, the middlemen are typically from different castes," Sainath explained. Many are also involved in the production of handicrafts such as bells, shoes, and trinkets that are related with cattle or leather, and they are all decimated."

The Banjara nomadic population in Rajasthan has been the target of multiple attacks. Even when trading cattle in government-run marketplaces, Banjara community leaders say they risk increased violence, with "cow vigilante organisations harassing, abusing, and extorting money from them."


  • Implement Supreme Court orders aimed at reducing community violence and holding those culpable for mob assaults accountable;
  • Ensure a timely and impartial investigation and punishment of those who perpetrate or instigate communal assaults, as well as a probe into alleged police inactivity in the face of vigilante violence; and
  • Public remarks and actions by top state and high-ranking police officials clearly and firmly convey that all perpetrators of mob violence, including those with political ties, will face full prosecution.
  • Ensure that cases of mob violence are investigated and prosecuted quickly and fairly.
  • Ensure that police misconduct is held accountable.
  • External accountability mechanisms should be strengthened.
  • Determine who will be in charge of supervising the police.
  • Families of Victims of Violence should be protected.
  • Demand that the Indian government safeguard religious and other minorities and that all acts of communal violence be investigated and prosecuted promptly.
  • Demand that the Indian government safeguard religious and other minorities and that all acts of communal violence be investigated and prosecuted promptly.
  • Demand that the Indian government issue strong public comments condemning all forms of communal violence and sending a clear message to Hindu extremist organisations that they will be punished and held accountable for whatever crimes they commit.
  • Support initiatives led by the government and civic society to gather systematic data on communal crimes per international human rights norms.
  • Current counterterrorism training and assistance programmes support specialist police training on human rights.
  • Increase financial support for Indian civil society organisations that monitor human rights and provide direct help to victims of communal violence.
  • The Supreme Court suggests enacting laws to prevent discrimination or violence based on religion or ethnic identity, with explicit directions on implementing it.
  • Enact a witness protection statute to safeguard victims and witnesses from intimidation, threats, and harassment. The legislation should require the federal and state governments to support witness protection programmes appropriately.
  • Ensure that any current or proposed rules or regulations restricting the cattle trade align with the right to a livelihood.
  • Form an expert committee comprised of agriculturists, civil society organisations, and farmers to study and provide recommendations on current laws and regulations governing cattle trading and protection.
  • Put in place protections to prevent private parties and non-state actors from participating in law enforcement actions, including those carried out by cow protection groups.


The residents of the town where the lynch mob is from show no remorse. We are surprised by the lack of regret. How can human people be without guilt for the atrocities they have committed against the victims? While communal riots have largely occurred in urban areas, with a few exceptions, mob lynching has become a source of communal polarisation in rural regions.

Because there is no defined legislation governing mob violence and lynching, criminals have an advantage in taking the law into their own hands and killing an alleged person based on mere suspicion. Killing someone on suspicion is completely unjustified. Strict regulations to prevent mob lynching are urgently needed in a democratic country like India, which is home to people of all faiths, castes, and social strata. A new legislation will cause a shift in the judicial system and political mindset, resulting in the abolition of this horrible crime.

PRACHI DUBEY is a 5th year B.A L.L.B student of a 5 year course from Amity Law School, Delhi (Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. She can be reached at