The Injustice in Mob Justice

An alleged rapist is beaten to death by a mob and the news fails to evoke any emotion akin to sympathy, pity, alarm or discomfort in most of us. Indeed, what can be fairer than the people deciding to collectively mete out justice? What can be more welcome then the fact that the public has decided to lash out their judgment on the perpetrators who have ‘wronged’ other people and dared to disturb the decorum of behaviour in an otherwise organized and civilized society? But does mob-justice itself constitute a proper course of action in a civilized society? Is the act of the mob becoming justice-givers correct, ethically, legally and socially? Is the justice being accorded by a mob, justice at all? It might be only a form of putting into action, popular verdict which might very well be untrue and unfair. The verdict could be guided mostly by illogical ‘logic’ and might be very prone to making rash decisions, which might very well be having no base whatsoever, to solid reason or might not be bearing any affinity to the truth.

This act of the mob deciding to take law into their hands can be defended as a form of collective outburst of the people, of the pent up frustration and disillusionment with the lax legal system existing in the society. But the fact that the mob is generally manipulated by a few biased individuals cannot be overlooked. There are several factors which are at play – the economics of it, the social tinge to it, and the political end that such an outburst by the mob might seek to attain are all responsible for the act. It is very discernable from statistics that most victims of such ire by the mob generally come from the lower end of the socio-economic strata.

I remember reading about such a case of injustice by the mob not too long ago. The incident happened in China. The drowned body of a minor girl was recovered by the locals from a river. The condition in which the body was found, led the locals to suspect rape and subsequent murder. The suspect was the girl’s uncle, who was then rounded up by a huge mob and mercilessly beaten to death. However, further investigation into the death of the girl revealed that the girl had actually killed herself after consuming copious amount of alcohol, being in a state of depression. Her medical examination proved that she had not been raped at all.

The incident clearly shows how the margin of popular error in a moment of popular justice by the mob is very, very slim. Indeed, history has, time and again, showed us how, whenever the crowd had decided to take matters into their own hands, it has only led to mindless violence, bloodshed or irreversible damage. The people who have been innocent of the crimes that they had charged with but were branded as criminals by the mob, having been maligned forever, cannot be compensated enough for what they went through. We have numerous examples in front of us today…the professor in Mumbai, whose face was blackened and then paraded in the college campus, the people involved in the Tata plant in Singur who whose face was blackened by the villagers and then forced to wear shoes around their necks, or even more outrageous form of the expression of justice by the mob like riots.

The phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ seems to be often ignored by us and the word ‘us’ not only includes the people but the media as well. The term ‘allegedly’ fails to register in us the fact that the alleged perpetrators should get the right to plead their innocence in a court of law and not have to defend themselves in front of some impromptu pseudo-legal biased and unqualified ‘jury’. Mob- psychology is unpredictable. What exactly it is about being in a mob that makes some sane individual lose their sense of ethics, fairness and rationality is difficult to explain. But the fact that mob justice in most cases is not justice at all cannot be contested.

Pronoti Baglary

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