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Anti-lynching Bills & implementation issues

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    24th Feb, 2022

Context

Bills passed against mob lynching in the past four years by at least three States have not been implemented with the Union government taking a view that lynching is not defined as a crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

What is Lynching?

  • Lynching is an affront to the Rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself.
  • Lynching by unruly mobs and barbaric violence arising out of instigation cannot be allowed to become the order of the day.
  • The act of lynching is not as simple as murder, it is a public spectacle committed against a victim whose crime is an fictitious as allegorical.
  • Dictionary meaning of Lynch says, ‘kill someone for an alleged offence without a legal trial’. 
  • The word ‘lynching’ originated in mid-18th century America. Back then the term referred to vigilante justice meted out to black people.
    • The term ‘Lynch’ has its origin after the name of a Virginia Planter named Charles Lynch who headed an irregular court, during the American Revolution, formed to punish loyalists.
  • Lynching is not a problem that is limited to a specific country. Various UN reports refer to lynching cases from Sudan, Nigeria, Haiti and other countries.

Case studies

  • Dadri Lynching case was held in Bisra Village, Uttar Pradesh in 2015. The person was lynched due to regional and communal differences. The person’s name was Mohammad Akhlaq. He was accused of slaughtering a cow for storing its meat for consumption. When this came into the knowledge of the Hindu community of the village, they lynched both the father and son. The fact of the matter is that this case is considered as one of the first cases which were religious-based and in the name of the cow the person was lynched.
  • Alwar, Rajasthan: Another instance happened in the Alwar District of Rajasthan in 2017. The issue pertinent in this case was that some people belonging to the Muslim community were accused of cattle smuggling and slaughtering of calves. The police department of Alwar filed a case against Khan for smuggling but he was permitted by the government to do so.
  • Delhi: In 2017, a lynching case happened in Delhi. It was based on the caste system prevailing that people belonging to lower case or backward classes of people need to suffer. In this case, a rickshaw driver stopped some of the college students as they were urinating on the public wall due to intoxication. The students who were intoxicated became furious and lynched the rickshaw driver.
  • Palghar mob Lynching case: It is pertinent to note that, on 16th April, 2020 a driver and two Sadhus were lynched by an angry mob. All the victims belonged to a village called Gadchinchale located in the Palghar district of Maharashtra. This unfortunate incident was fuelled by a rumour which was circulated on WhatsApp, wherein it was stated that there have been thieves operating in the village amidst the coronavirus lockdown. 

Lynching laws in India

  • There is no national law made on mob lynching. Mob lynching is not defined in IPC, CRPC, and nor defined in the constitution.
  • Though there are certain provisions in the IPC, for example-
    • Section 223 (a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 states that persons or a mob involved in the same offence in the same act can be tried together.
    • Sections 302 (murder)
    • Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder)
    • Section 307 (attempt to murder)

Which states have anti-lynching laws?

  • Jharkhand: In Jharkhand, the Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021 envisages imprisonment for those pronounced guilty of mob violence and lynching for periods ranging from three years to life term, besides fine and attachment of property.
  • Rajasthan: In August 2019, the Rajasthan government passed the 'The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019' providing for life imprisonment and a fine from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to those convicted in cases of mob lynching leading to victim’s death.
  • West Bengal: In August 2019, the West Bengal Assembly passed 'The West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019', proposing a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for offences.

What are the impacts of mob lynching in India?

  • Threat to law: This act of people taking the law into their hands because of the shallow knowledge of the Justice System poses a serious threat to the Rule of Law and principles of Natural Justice.
  • Threat to minority: Such acts have also posed serious threats to minority groups in the country.
  • Suppressing basic rights of minorities: Such crime results in promoting majoritarianism by propagating the beliefs of the majority by suppressing the basic rights of the minorities. 
  • Normalising heinous crimes: It normalise such heinous crimes. 
  • Economic loss: An important fact about lynching in India is its effect on the economy of the country. The greatest number of attacks have been on drivers carrying dead animals, traders of beef and owners of slaughterhouses; as a result, they will tend to abandon these jobs due to fear of suffering lynching.
  • Health impacts:Lynching incidents are an issue of public health. In the short-term, lynching leads to death and injury for the victims whereas in the long-term it can lead to psychological and physiological effects on present and future generations. 

A serious question

Mob lynchings also raise another disturbing question: are people losing faith in the judicial/democratic system of governance? And because a mob dispenses what it thinks is justice by itself, it often chooses its victim and the mode of justice. The targets are often the most vulnerable of society.

Where does the problem lie?

  • However, there is lack of implementations. These need to be implemented strongly and effectively.

What measures are actually required?

  • Strong measures: States must take strong measures, including appointing nodal officers at district level, to curb such instances of violence in the name of cow protection.
  • Proactive measures: States should be far more vigilant and proactive in flagging rumours using social media and other platforms. Some states are doing it, others need to emulate these examples.
    • For example, Telangana police officer, Rema Rajeshwari (Superintendent of Police, Jogulamba Gadwal district), has trained a team of 500 police officers to tackle the fake news menace. These officers go to villages to spread awareness about social issues. Police personnel have also been added to local WhatsApp groups in villages to spot rumours that could lead to violence.
  • More campaigns and awareness among people
  • Control on the spread of fake news

Conclusion

In a country like India, people taking law into their own hands is unacceptable since citizens of the country have been granted various fundamental rights and such lynching cases are abusing their right to life, right to a fair trial, etc. India is a secular state and it’s important to ensure that interests of the minority are being protected and they are not suppressed by the majority.

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