The Rajasthan Assembly on Monday passed Bills against mob lynching and honour killing, which make the, cognisable, non–bailable and non-compoundable offences with life imprisonment and fine up to Rs 5 lakh. The bill to curb honour killing also has a provision of death penalty for the convict.
Following “many” such lynchings “resulting in loss of livelihood, injuries and death of persons at the hands of mob” the Ashok Gehlot government had said it hopes to “nip the evil in the bud.” The state had witnessed a spurt in lynchings in 2017, beginning with dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in April 2017.
What the anti-lynch Bill says
Offences under new law will be investigated by a police officer of the rank of Inspector and above, and state DGP will appoint an officer of IG or above rank 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 attack leads to death, the punishment is life imprisonment. The Bill also makes conspirators accountable.
The Bills, including the Rajasthan Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, tabled by Cabinet minister Shanti Dhariwal on July 30, were discussed Monday and subsequently passed by voice vote.
During the discussion in the state Assembly on the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said that there already are sufficient provisions in the Indian Penal Code to penalise those who commit such offences. He said that the Bill defines two people as a mob, which goes against the definition of a mob, and accused the government of trying to please a particular community through the Bill. “Don’t push the state into a fire just to make a certain community happy,” he said.
Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore termed the Bill a “black law, which will affect generations to come.” He said that the proposed law doesn’t consider “bare minimum” carefulness. “In its statement, the Bill says that it was constituted following a Supreme Court judgement. However, the said judgement says that it is the Parliament which should create such a law (and thereby, not the state),” Rathore said.
He also said that the Bill states that it has been made for “vulnerable persons” but doesn’t define them, and that its provisions contradict the related IPC provisions. Former BJP minister Jogeshwar Garg “thanked” the Congress government for bringing the Bill, saying that the circumstances in the society were such that it was needed. He, however, said he was apprehensive about the Bill, saying that, for example, if he and his daughter run into an eve teaser on the road, and that person is caught and assaulted by locals, then he and his own daughter will also be punished, merely for resisting, since the Bill also holds accountable those who witness a lynching.
Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas made an impassioned plea for the Bill, saying that his parents and family members get disturbed at the visuals of lynchings which are flashed on television and how it shouldn’t exist in a society.
BJP MLA Abhinesh Maharshi said that, “maybe the government’s intentions are good,” but said the Bill is found wanting on several counts. Former Jaipur Mayor and now BJP MLA Ashok Lahoty said that, “the Bill is in favour of cow smugglers” and that it is being brought in to “benefit a particular community and against the majority.” BJP MLA Madan Dilawar too said that the Bill is being brought in “to protect thieves, dacoits, smugglers and cow murderers.” BJP MLA Avinash also said that it was being introduced for a “certain community.”
Former Congress leader and now an Independent MLA, Sanyam Lodha, said that photos, messages and videos of assaults and lynching which do the rounds on TV and social media, are unbearable to watch. He attacked the Opposition stating that “a former Union minister in BJP garlanded mob lynchers in Jharkhand.”
Replying to the objections raised by the Opposition, Shanti Dhariwal said that “the state which was known as the most peaceful state became infamous for lynchings.” He said that if the IPC and the CrPC were sufficient to deal with the said crimes, as suggested by some BJP leaders, then how come such crimes haven’t stopped, and why did the SC need to ask the government “to create a separate offence” for lynching.
As for Opposition’s counter that the SC had asked the Parliament to pass such a law, Dhariwal said that the Union government has evinced no interest in such a law and that the subject was part of the Concurrent List, hence the state can move ahead with such legislation.
Defending the definition of mob as two or more persons, he said that two people have the ability to grievously harm a third person, hence they’ve been defined as a mob, and that the proposed laws in Manipur and Uttar Pradesh also defined mob as two or more persons. “Lynchings have a negative impact on social harmony, hence we’re bringing in a progressive law,” he said.
Speaker C P Joshi later adjourned the Assembly sine die.
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