The Rajasthan government has tabled a Bill against lynching, making it a cognisable, non-bailable, non-compoundable offence with life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh. A second Bill against honour killing, with similar provisions, was also tabled in the Assembly in Jaipur on Tuesday.
What the lynching Bill says
The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill defines lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity”.
If passed, offences under the Act will be investigated by a police officer of the rank of Inspector and above, and state DGP will appoint an officer of the rank of IG or above as State Coordinator to prevent lynchings. In cases of “hurt” and “grievous hurt” from such assault, the convict may get up to seven and 10 years in jail respectively; if the case leads to death, the punishment is life imprisonment. The Bill also makes conspirators accountable.
The context of the Bill
Following “many” such lynchings “resulting in loss of livelihood, injuries and death of persons at the hands of mob”, the government of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot hopes to “nip the evil in the bud”. A fortnight ago, Gehlot had expressed concern over these “disturbing” incidents, and said that his government was “serious” about tackling them. Rajasthan witnessed a spurt of lynchings in 2017, beginning with that of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in April 2017.
What Supreme Court had said
In July last year, the Supreme Court had condemned the “sweeping” incidents of lynching as “an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution”, and asked Parliament to come up with a special law to deter such crimes. “The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land”, the court had said. The “recurrent pattern of violence”, it had said, “cannot be allowed to become the new normal”.
A three-judge Bench of then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had passed “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to deal with lynchings and mob vigilantism.
“We think it appropriate to recommend to… Parliament to create a separate offence for lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same. We have said so as a special law in this field would instil a sense of fear for law amongst the people who involve themselves in such kinds of activities. There can be no trace of doubt that fear of law and veneration for the command of law constitute the foundation of a civilised society,” the Bench had said.
What happened afterwards
The Bench had directed the Centre and states to carry out its directions within four weeks.
Soon afterwards, the central government had informed Lok Sabha that it had created a Group of Ministers (GoM) under then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and a high-level committee under Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to “deliberate” and “make recommendations” for a separate penal provision for incidents of mob violence.
In Uttar Pradesh, the State Law Commission has submitted a report, including a draft Uttar Pradesh Combating of Mob Lynching Bill, 2019, to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The panel has recommended jail terms ranging from seven years to life for assailants.
In Madhya Pradesh, the government of Chief Minister Kamal Nath has proposed to bring a law against lynching in the name of the cow.