The Rajasthan legislative assembly on Monday passed a Bill 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. 'The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019' was passed by the Vidhan Sabha by a voice vote amid vociferous protest by the opposition BJP, which wanted the Bill to be referred to a select committee.
The Bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal in the state assembly last week. Responding to the debate on the bill, Dhariwal on Monday told the House that the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code have provisions to deal with the cases of mob lynching incidents, they are not adequate.
Accordingly, the government has brought the Bill to provide for stricter punishment to curb such incidents. Mentioning the Supreme Court's recommendation to enact a law against the incidents of mob lynching, the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said, "It is proposed to nip the evil in the bud and to prevent spreading of hatred or incitement to mob lynching by creating special offences against such acts."
Chief minister Ashok Gehlot had announced his government's intention to enact the law while replying to the debate on state Budget on July 16. In his reply, Dhariwal told the House that the Bill was introduced to ensure that the incidents of mob lynching are not repeated in the state. "After 2014, 86 per cent cases of mob lynching reported in the country happened in Rajasthan. The state is considered a peaceful state and such incidents have put a blot on it," he said.
The opposition legislators collectively protested against the Bill saying they will not support it in its present form and demanded it to be sent to a select committee for review. Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the Supreme Court had given several guidelines while hearing cases related to the mob lynching but the state government considered its only one suggestion of enacting a law.
Pointing out that the IPC and CrPC have ample provisions to deal with the cases of mob lynching, Kataria demanded from the government to table relevant statistics in the House on cases of mob lynching in the state to justify the new law.
"The state government should not bring such a strict law in a hurry. The Bill should be sent to a select committee where we will sit and discuss on all issues and support it in all manners, but we will not support the Bill in its present form," he said.
Following the debate and the minister's reply, the House passed the Rajasthan (Protection from Lynching) Bill, 2019 by voice vote. The bill defines the "mob" as a group of two or more individuals.
It also defines "lynching" as "an act or series of acts of violence or those of aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, whether spontaneous or preplanned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation or ethnicity".
For the offence of an assault by mob, leading to the victim suffering grievous hurts, the Bill provides for jail terms up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 lakh. In cases of the victims suffering simple injuries, the Bill proposes imprisonment up to seven years and a fine up to Rs 1 lakh.
For hatching a conspiracy of lynching or aiding, abetting or attempting such an offence, the Bill seeks to punish the offenders in the same manner as if he actually committed the offence of lynching.
The Bill also empowers the state police chief to appoint a state coordinator of the rank of inspector general of police to prevent the incidents of lynching in the state with the district superintendents of police acting as the district's coordinator, to be assisted by a deputy superintendents of police, for taking measures to prevent incidents of mob violence and lynching.
The Bill also enlists various other offences related to the lynching such as dissemination of offensive materials, propagation of hostile environment and obstructing legal processes, which would be punishable with jail terms varying from three to five years.
The Bill also stipulates the provision of compensation to victims by the state government as per the Rajasthan Victim Compensation Scheme. It also binds the state government to take necessary measures to rehabilitate the victims of mob lynching, suffering displacements from their native places.