Context: Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019
More in News:
- The Manipur Assembly has passed a bill which recommends life imprisonment for those involved in mob violence, if it results in the death of a person.
- If Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 gets passed, Rajasthan will be the second State after Manipur to have a dedicated law criminalizing mob lynching as a special offence.
- In July, 2018, Supreme Court issued guidelines to underlining preventive, remedial and punitive measures for the purposes of preventing heinous activities such as cow vigilantism, lynching and mob violence. (Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India Case)
As per the bill, ‘lynching’ means 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.
Supreme Court Guidelines (2018): Expressing its abhorrence over the rising incidents of lynching across the country, the 2018 Supreme Court bench comprising the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud issued several guidelines as preventive measures. Some key guidelines are:
- Designation by the state governments of a senior police officer, not below the rank of superintendent of police, as nodal officer (NO) in each district to function as the head of a special task force to procure intelligence reports about potential perpetuator.
- Identification of districts/sub-divisions and/or villages, where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
- Central and state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms, including official websites of the home department and police of states that lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequence under the law.
- It is the duty of the central and state governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.
- As remedial measures, the Court directed the jurisdictional police station to immediately lodge an FIR, without any undue delay.
- The Supreme Court made it clear that cases of lynching and mob violence should be tried by designated courts/fast track courts.
Objective of the bill: It aims to provide for effective protection of the Constitutional rights of vulnerable persons, to punish the acts of lynching, to provide for designated courts for the expeditious trial of such offences, for rehabilitation of victims of mob lynching and their families and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Provisions of the bill:
- Appointment of a dedicated nodal officer: Director General of Police shall appoint a State Coordinator to prevent lynching; Every District Superintendent of Police shall be the District Coordinator.
- Prescribing duties to the Police Officer and District Magistarte: to prevent the creation of a hostile environment against a person or group of persons who are targeted in such incidents.
- Offences to be cognizable, non – bailable and noncompoundable.
- Setting up of special courts.
- Stipulating enhanced punishments.
- It criminalizes acts of lynching, dissemination of offensive material and fostering of a hostile environment.
- It also provides for relief, legal aid, compensation and rehabilitation.
Issues with Bill:
- Legal Scrutiny: Section 8(c) of the Bill says that whoever commits an act of lynching, where the act leads to the death of the victim, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees and may extend to five lakh rupees.
- The bill deprives the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise their discretion. In the context of criminal law and sentencing, the principle of proportionality mandates an adequate balance of the gravity of the crime, the interests of the victim and of society, and the purposes of criminal law. The constitutional courts have time and again applied the principle of proportionality and have struck down laws that are excessively harsh or disproportionate.
- Section 9 of the Rajasthan Bill stipulates the same punishment for lynching and “attempting” an act of lynching.
Conclusion: The Constitution of India guarantees to all persons the right to life and personal liberty and the Equal protection of laws. In recent times there have been many of incidents resulting in loss of livelihood, injuries and death of persons at the hands of mob lynching. Lynching is an egregious manifestation of prejudice, intolerance, and contempt towards the rule of law. Despite the flaws in the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, the Rajasthan Bill is evidence of political will by the State government. It is expected that deliberations help in the enactment of a more constitutionally robust Bill.