Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Bill, 2018- A Step in the Right Direction.

Context: The Manipur Assembly recently passed the Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Bill, 2018, becoming the first state in India to pass a law on mob lynching.

What is mob lynching?

Lynching is defined as putting to death by mob action without legal approval or permission.It is a form of instant justice being administered against a presumed offender without any trial or procedure established by law

Mob Lynching in India:

  • According to news reports, there have been 86 deaths due to mob lynching since 2015.
  • Incidents of mob violence have often occurred over issues such as suspicion of cow theft or killing, smuggling, and suspicion of child liftingwith victims often being from the marginalized sections of the society– poor Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis
  • Lack of comprehensive law to tackle mob violence, impunity of offenders as a result of the poor working of the criminal justice system has perpetuated the incidences of mob violence.

Mob Lynching Laws in India

  1. Cases of mob lynching and other incidents related to instant justice are tried under section34, 120B, 147, 148, 149, 302, 307,323,325, and 341 of IPC
  2. Further, under Section 223 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), it is allowed to try two or more accused for conducting a crime as a “same transaction”.
  3. Provisions in Indian law that proximate to hate crime law, are those under section-
  • 153A IPC:promoting enmity between groups and acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
  • 153B IPC:acts prejudicial to maintenance of national integration
Draft Proposed Legislation (Civil Society Initiative):
National Campaign Against Mob Lynching (NCAML) or ‘Masuka’ (ManavSurakshaKanoon)
Key features:
• Makes lynching a non-bailable offence
• Criminalises dereliction of duty by a policeman
• Criminalises incitement on social media
• Stipulates adequate compensation to be paid to victims and survivors.

 

Supreme Court Judgement on Mob Lynching (Tehseen Poonawalla. &ORs. Vs. Union of India), 2017

Condemning the ever-increasing incidents of mob lynching, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the ‘rising intolerance and growing polarisation’ prevailing in the Indian Society and directed Parliament to enact a law to deal with the crime

The important directives provided by SC are:

  1. The state governments shall designate a senior police officer in each district for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
  2. The state governments shall immediately identify districts, sub-divisions and villages where instances of lynching and mob violence have been reported in the recent past.
  3. The nodal officers shall bring to the notice of the DGP any inter-district co-ordination issues for devising a strategy to tackle lynching and mob violence related issues.
  4. It shall be the duty of every police officer to cause a mob to disperse, which, in his opinion, has a tendency to cause violence in the disguise of vigilantism or otherwise
  5. Central and the state governments should broadcast on radio and television and other media platforms including the official websites that lynching and mob violence shall invite serious consequence.
  6. Curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms.
  7. State governments shall prepare a lynching/mob violence victim compensation scheme.
  8. Cases of lynching and mob violence shall be specifically tried by designated court/fast track courts earmarked for that purpose in each district.
  9. If it is found that a police officer or an officer of the district administration has failed to fulfil his duty, it will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence

 

The Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Bill, 2018

Key features:

  1. It defines mob lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting such act/acts thereof, 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 or any other related grounds” .
  2. The law makes offences of mob violence cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable
  3. The law states that if an act of mob violence leads to death of the victims, the offenders would be punished with rigorous life imprisonment and fine which may extend up to 5 lakhs
  4. Anyone who creates hostile environment against people of the community who have been lynched will be punished with imprisonment of 6 months
  5. It lays down the duty and responsibility of the State government to make arrangements for the protection of victims and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion, inducement, violence or threats of violence.
  6. It calls for creating a nodal officer to control such crimes in every districts.
  7. The nodal officer has been mandated to form a special task force to procure intelligence reports about people likely to commit such crimes or have been previously engaged in such crimes
  8. The law provides for special courts and speedy justice.
  9. The law makes provisions to hold police officers accountable for failing to prevent lynching and make them guilty of dereliction of duty. Such officer (s) will be liable to punishment of imprisonment of one year, which may extend to three years, and with fine that may extend to Rs. 50000
  10. The law mandates the state to formulate a scheme for relief camps and rehabilitation in case of displacement of victims, and death compensation.

Critical appraisal:

Positives:

  1. The law provides a very comprehensive definition of lynching covering many forms of hate crimes.
  2. It creates a new crime of dereliction of duty of public officials and holds public officials accountable in case of failure to prevent mob violence
  3. Itremoves the protection that is otherwise extended to public officials charged with any offence committed while acting in their discharge of official duty. According to the act, no prior sanction is required to register crimes against public officials who fail in their duties to prevent hate crimes such as lynching.
  4. It does away with the requirement of prior state sanction before acting on a hate crime thus making action against such crimes effective and non-partisan. Presently, hate crimes come under the ambit of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code and registering this crime requires prior permission of the State government.
  5. The provision for proving rehabilitation is highly applauding as until now no states have taken enough measures to provide support and security to mob lynch victims or their families.

Drawbacks:

  1. The law excludes solitary hate crimes and is only constricted crimes committed by mob (mob being defined as group of two people or more). Critics are of the opinion that the provisions of this law should apply to all hate crimes, not just lynching, regardless of the numbers of persons who participate.
  2. It does not include deliberately protecting criminals during investigation after the hate crime as crimes of dereliction of duty
  3. Critics have argued that provisions for rehabilitation are not comprehensive and does not explicitly incorporates gender-sensitive reparation
  4. The law does not contain provisions to combat incitement on social media, fake news on social media platforms which may lead to mob lynching cases.

Conclusion:

Mob lynching is against the very pillars of justice, right to life and dignity and pose a great danger to the social fabric of India. There is a compelling need to formulate a comprehensive law against mob violence ensure speedy trials together with the rehabilitationof victims’ families and security of witnesses. Manipur’s law on mob lynching is a right step in the direction and other states too should follow the suit.

 

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