NEW DELHI - India's Supreme Court on Tuesday urged the government to enact laws separate to those against murder to act as a deterrent against lynchings, following a series of attacks in which mobs have beaten people to death.
A 32-year-old call centre employee was killed in the southern state of Karnataka at the weekend after rumours spread that he was a child-kidnapper, the latest in a series of assaults triggered by false messages about child abductors on social media.
Hindu groups opposed to the slaughter of cows have also targeted cattle traders, mainly from the minority Muslim community, and others on the suspicion they were eating beef. The majority of Hindus consider cows sacred.
"We think it appropriate to recommend ... to parliament to create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same... A special law in this field would instil a sense of fear," the court said in its judgment.
The court was hearing a petition filed by an activist to stop violence by Hindu vigilante groups, who are against the slaughter of cows and who critics say have become emboldened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist government came to power in 2014.
The court asked the Modi government to report back within four weeks.
"The horrendous acts of 'mobocracy' cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land," the judgment said.
(Writing by Malini Menon; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +91 11 4954 8028 / +91 11 3015 8028; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com@reuters.net))