It’s time to enact an anti-lynching law:

It’s time to enact an anti-lynching law:

Context:

  • With escalating numbers of lynching cases, the country needs a concrete anti-lynching law devoid of socio-political loopholes.

The Act against lynching:

  • The The National Campaign Against Mob Lynching’s (NCAML) draft Protection from Lynching Act, 2017 defines, for the first time in Indian legal history, the terms ‘lynching’, ‘mob’ and ‘victim’ of mob lynching.
  • It makes lynching a non-bailable offence, criminalises dereliction of duty by a policeman, criminalises incitement on social media, and stipulates that adequate compensation be paid, within a definite time frame, to victims and survivors.
  • It also guarantees a speedy trial and witness.

The loopholes:

  •  It is difficult to fault the intent or the provisions of the draft legislation. Nonetheless, two aspects merit close scrutiny:
  • The potential for abuse of the legilation, and the underlying premise that a generic anti-lynching law could address India’s lynching problem.
  • On the question of misuse, the provisions empowering local law enforcement officials to take pre-emptive action could easily be invoked to criminalise peaceful public assembly, especially if the gathering is of workers or members of marginalised communities agitating for their rights.For instance:
  • The police could use this law to detain a group of laborers planning a dharna, on the grounds that they constitute a mob that poses a threat to company officials.
  •  A major reason for the recent rise in lynching is impunity, i.e., exemption from punishment.
  • The problem is not mob lynching, but the mob lynching of minorities, for that is where impunity comes in.

The Anti-Communal Violence Bill:

  • The Anti-Communal Violence Bill was buried because it was felt that it threatened the autonomy of States by raising a parallel structure that undermined federalism. But this is a misrepresentation, and the Bill needs to be revived for three reasons:
  • It fixes command responsibility for communal incidents.
  • It recognises that targeted communal violence disproportionately victimises minorities.
  • It creates a mechanism to insulate investigations of communal violence from political interference.
  • Moreover, the draft for anti-lynching law needs to be revised to incorporate these key elements of the Anti-Communal Violence Bill.
  • Also, the demand for an anti-lynching law needs to be supported by a parallel campaign for police reforms.
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