|Saturday, 29 March 2003|
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Mob violence and the due process of law
A thirteen-year-old girl reportedly fastened to a bed by a dog chain was at the centre of an ugly bout of mob violence which erupted at Orugodawatte on Thursday, in the heart of Colombo. Most readers are probably familiar by now with the circumstances which led to this violent flare-up between residents of the area who were anxious to rescue the girl from her revolting condition, and the police.
The reason given by the residents, who reportedly numbered around one thousand, for their clash with the police was delayed action by the latter when informed about the dehumanised girl. The allegation of the angry civilians is that the local police had failed to take prompt action to rescue the girl, who had apparently been living in sub-human conditions in a businessman's residence, despite having been told about her situation.
This has, apparently, been another instance of the rabble taking the law into their own hands. While we condemn unreservedly any attempts at subjecting human beings to inhuman and degrading treatment, we are disturbed in equal measure by the spectacle of unauthorized persons taking the law into their own hands once again.
Time and again have we decried in these columns reprehensible behaviour by violent mobs, particularly when they decide to take on themselves the administration "justice". The latter course of action, we are constrained to note, is as grievous and blame worthy as the offences which it sets out to rectify. In fact, such acts only aggravate the already far from remarkable law and order situation in the country.
If the allegations are found to square with the facts, we commend the concern of the residents of Orugodawatte for the girl in virtual captivity but we can in no way think in favourable terms of their subsequent actions. In other words, the police should never have been violently confronted.
Interestingly, it was only a couple of days back that we welcomed a High Court judgement which resulted in a 17 year RI term being handed down to several accused who were found guilty of violently breaking into the premises of an elderly couple, who died in the incident. We considered the ruling a fitting punishment for mindless mob violence. It is such judicial decisions which could help in curbing the current spiral of lawlessness.
We call, therefore, for a thorough investigation of the mob violence at Orugodawatte. While legal action needs to be taken against those responsible for the condition of the girl - if this is found to be true - all those who figured in the attack on the police need to be brought to justice too.
Under no circumstances could the act of taking the law into their own hands by the mob, be condoned.
Meanwhile, the allegations against the police should also be probed. It should be ascertained whether, in fact, the police had failed to respond promptly to public disclosures of the child's condition.
The reasons for the delayed response by the police also need to be investigated, if that is found to be true. Justice, in other words, should be meted out impartially and by due process of law.
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