Six days after the Supreme Court denounced the “sweeping” incidents of lynching as “an affront to the rule of law” and called for a law to deal with such “horrendous acts of mobocracy”, the government Monday informed Lok Sabha that it had created a Group of Ministers (GoM) under 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 on incidents of mob violence.
The committee led by Gauba will submit its recommendations to the GoM in four weeks. The GoM, which includes External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, will examine these recommendations and submit its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Gauba committee will include secretaries of the departments of Justice, Legal Affairs, Legislative Department and Social Justice and Empowerment as its members.
In its reply to Parliament recently, the Home Ministry said it “does not maintain” data on lynching incidents. As many as 31 deaths across nine states have been reported in acts of lynching, the most recent being the one in Alwar, Rajasthan, where a 32-year-old man, Rakbar Khan, was lynched by a mob on suspicion of cow smuggling. Khan and his friend Aslam were taking two cows to their village in Haryana. The Home Ministry has sought a report from the Rajasthan government on the Alwar incident.
In a statement announcing the GoM Monday, the Home Ministry said: “Government is concerned at the incidents of violence by mobs in some parts of the country. Government has already condemned such incidents and made its stand clear in the Parliament that it is committed to upholding the rule of law and adopting effective measures to curb such incidents.”
“As per the Constitutional scheme, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects. State governments are responsible for controlling crime, maintaining law and order, and protecting the life and property of the citizens. They are empowered to enact and enforce laws to curb crime in their jurisdiction.”
“Accordingly, Ministry of Home Affairs has, from time to time, issued advisories to States/UTs for maintenance of public order and prevention of crime in their areas of jurisdiction. An advisory on addressing the issue of lynching by mob on suspicion of child lifting was issued on 04.07.2018. Earlier, an advisory was issued on 09.08.2016 on disturbances by miscreants in the name of protection of cow.”
“Government respects the recent directions of the Supreme Court on the issue of mob violence, and has issued an advisory to State governments urging them to take effective measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching and to take stringent action as per law. The State governments have been advised to implement the directions issued in the matter by the Supreme Court on July 17, 2018,” the Ministry said.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, while passing a series of “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to deal with lynchings and mob vigilantism, said “apart from the directions… 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.”
The judges said the law and order machinery in the states have the “principal obligation to see that vigilantism, be it cow vigilantism or any other vigilantism of any perception, does not take place… There cannot be an investigation, trial and punishment of any nature on the streets. The process of adjudication takes place within the hallowed precincts of the courts of justice, and not on the streets”.