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Mainstream, VOL LV No 8 New Delhi February 11, 2017

Hatred Justifies All

Sunday 12 February 2017, by Mukul Dube


A judge of the Bombay High Court recently gave bail to three men who were charged with a murder committed in the presence of eye-witnesses. Here is part of the judgment, which looks not at facts but at presumed motivation:

“The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicants/accused. Moreover, the applicants/accused have no criminal record and it appears in the name of the religion, they were provoked and have committed the murder.”

This is extraordinary. In the first place, it sees “belonging to another religion” as a “fault” which can invite lethal assault. Beyond that, murder committed by people who are “provoked” is seen as no worse than a minor transgression which should not invite incarceration.

The Indian Penal Code recognises what it calls abetment. Section 109 of that Code prescribes this punishment for the crime of abetment:

“Whoever abets any offence shall, if the act abetted is committed in consequence of the abetment, and no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such abetment, be punished with the punishment provided for the offence.”

Here is the explanation which follows:

“An act or offence is said to be committed in consequence of abetment, when it is committed in consequence of the instigation, or in pursuance of the conspiracy, or with the aid which constitutes the abetment.”

Is there any difference between “instigation” and “provocation” and “abetment”? Did the judge who pronounced this judgment say anything about identifying, arresting and punishing the abettors? Did the judge even consider the fact that Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code deals with “promoting enmity between different groups”? What other meaning can there be of provoking Hindus to kill a Muslim because he is a Muslim?   

The author is a writer, editor and photographer.

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