Lucknow: A spate of lynching incidents across the country, in particular last year’s mob attack that killed a police inspector in Bulandshahr, prompted the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission to take suo motu action and draft the UP Combating of Mob Lynching Bill in March this year, officials said.
The bill, part of a report on mob lynchings submitted to Chief Minister Adityanath’s office earlier this week, contains some tough provisions such as imprisonment terms going up to life for lynching convicts and up to three years for police officers or district magistrates guilty of dereliction of duty, designated courts, daily hearings as well as rehabilitation and compensation for the victims’ families.
“In December at Bulandshahr, inspector Subodh Singh was killed and police personnel were locked up in a room where the mob tried to kill them by setting fire to the building. Before this, there was the 2015 Dadri lynching case of Akhlaq,” the UP State Law Commission Chairman Justice A.N. Mittal (retd) told The Print. “These incidents are increasing. I felt that there should be a strict law on this point. Not just the law, I have suggested some preventive and remedial measures as well as rehabilitation of the families of the victims.”
‘Lynching in the name of the cow in UP’
The UP Law Commission’s report has pointed out that there have been mob lynching incidents in UP in the name of “cow vigilantes”, “gau rakshak”, “beef lynching”, “cow slaughter”, “cow thieves”, “beef smuggling” and cattle trading. It has further said other states had witnessed mob lynching on suspicions of child lifting, theft or kidnapping girls.
“Work on the bill gained momentum with such incidents being reported from West Bengal in the name of Jai Shri Ram, stone pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, In Jharkhand, Manipur and other places,” said Mittal, a former judge at the Allahabad High Court.
Stating that this was a suo motu action of the state law commission in the light of numerous cases being reported across the country, Mittal also pointed to orders of the Supreme Court as well as high courts in the country for the need to formulate such a law. He added that Manipur was the only state in the country to have such mob-lynching legislation in place and a private member bill had been submitted in the Rajya Sabha for framing such a law.
According to IndiaSpend’s hate crime fact checker on cow-related violence in the country, UP tops the list since 2012. In 20 such incidents, the state saw 11 deaths, this data states.
Life imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh fine
The draft bill begins by defining “hostile environment”, “lynching”, “mob”, “offensive material” following which it spells out the duties of the police officers and district magistrates (DMs) to prevent the lynchings. The proposed law’s section on punishment not just has provisions for those convicted of the crime but also police officers and DMs for dereliction of duty.
Suggesting that offence for lynching can extend up to seven years where the victim is hurt, the draft bill states, “Where the act leads to the death of the victim, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.”
It further states that anyone who takes part or conspires to lynch another person or attempts to do it “shall be punished in the same manner as if they had taken part in the actual incident of lynching”.
Police officers and DMs who fail to prevent lunching “without reasonable cause” will be guilty of dereliction of duty. For police officers, dereliction of duty included failure to protect lynching victim, failure to “act upon apprehended lynching”.
The proposed legislation maintains that DMs exercising their authority in a malafide manner that harms or injures any person or property and who fail to prevent any act of lynching will be guilty of dereliction of duty. For both, the punishment term would be of one year, which may extend to three years and a fine of Rs 50,000, the bill suggests.
Trial and rehabilitation
The offence, according to the draft bill, shall be “cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable”. It proposes that cases “shall be tried by the designated judge, who shall be appointed by the state government in consultation with the high court chief justice”.
“A special procedure for expeditious trial has also been provided,” it adds.
The commission’s draft bill also calls for relief and rehabilitation for the victims, stating that compensation should be given to them within 30 days of the incident and lists a slew of facilities that should be provided at relief camps when such incidents have led to the displacement of more than 50 people.
In September 2015, the Dadri lynching case of Mohammad Akhlaq has led to a huge public outcry. Four years on, all accused in the case have been out on bail while the case drags on in the local court.
Addressing the fate of such cases in court, Mittal said, “Multiple legal counsels for the accused delay the hearing by submitting pleas for documents as a tactic to delay the actual trial. Hence, the bill suggests that a separate judge should hear such cases and they should be heard daily.
“I have been concerned with the security of the witnesses which is lacking currently. The administration does not seem to be providing security to the victims and the witnesses.”