New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the police across states to create and maintain a cyber information portal on their websites for reporting the instances of mob violence and destruction of public and private properties.
Passing a slew of directions to prevent rising incidents of mob violence across the country, the top court said the person, who has initiated or instigated any act of violence against cultural programmes resulting in loss of life and damage to public or private property, will be made to compensate the victims.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in cases where a group or organisation has staged a demonstration resulting in violence and damage to property, the leaders and office bearers of such group should on their own, physically present themselves for questioning within 24 hours in the concerned police station.
The bench, also comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud, said any person found to be carrying prohibited weaponry, licensed or otherwise, during such demonstrations would prima facie be presumed to have an intention to commit violence and would be proceeded in that regard as per law.
It also said states should set up rapid response teams, preferably district-wise, specially trained to deal with such acts of mob violence which could be quickly mobilised to respond to such incidents.
"The state governments should set up special helplines to deal with instances of mob violence," the bench said, adding that "the state police shall create and maintain a cyber information portal on its website and on its internet-based application(s) for reporting instances of mob violence and destruction of public and private properties".
It said additional responsibilities would be fastened upon the nodal officers who have been appointed in pursuance of the earlier verdict in the mob violence case. "The 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 court said.
"The authorities must ensure that arrests of miscreants found on the spot are done in the right earnest," it said, adding that the nodal officers may consider taking appropriate steps as per law, including to impose reasonable restrictions on social media and internet-based communication services or mobile applications, if situation so warrants.
It said that nodal officers must take coordinated efforts and issue "messages across various audio-visual mediums to restore peace and to stop/control rumours. This can extend to issuing communications on local TV channels, radio stations, social media like Twitter etc".
The bench said that if a call to violence is made through a spokesperson or through social media accounts of any group, organisation or individual, and results in damage to property, appropriate action be taken against such person under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
"A person arrested for either committing or initiating, promoting, instigating or in any way causing to occur any act of violence which results in loss of life or damage to property may be granted conditional bail upon depositing the quantified loss caused due to such violence or furnishing security for such quantified loss," it said.
"In case of more than one person involved in such act of violence, each one of them shall be jointly, severally and vicariously liable to pay the quantified loss," it said.
The bench said since the nodal officers hold the overall responsibility in each district to prevent mob violence against cultural establishments and against property, any unexplained or unsubstantiated delay in filing FIRs, conducting investigations should be deemed to be inaction on the part of such officers. It also said that incidents of mob violence be video-graphed by the officer incharge.
"Status reports of the investigation(s)/trial(s) concerning such offences as set out hereinabove, including the results of such trial(s), shall be uploaded on the official website of the concerned state police on a regular basis," the bench said.
The bench referred to its directions passed in cases related to cow vigilantism, mob violence and instances of honour killings and said that all those measures have to be followed by the states to ensure that no such incidents take place. It said these measures have to implemented by the Centre and states governments expeditiously and preferably within a period of eight weeks.