Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill passed

As lynching can be a political tool to enforce a social order based on suppressing those rights, the response to lynching needs to undo that suppression.

//Kishor Govinda//
On 6 August 2019, the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly passed the second anti-lynching legislation in the country, after Manipur passed similar legislation. The Bill called the ‘Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019’, follows the Supreme Court prescriptions for states to prevent lynching. The Bill was introduced by Minister Shanti Dhariwal in the state assembly and was passed by the Congress majority. The opposition party, the BJP, opposed the bill claiming that existing provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code were sufficient to combat lynchings.

Content of the Bill Summary:

The bill 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”. It imposes varying degree of punishment ranging from 7 years imprisonment and Rs. 1 lakh fine in cases of simple injuries of the victim, and up to a maximum of life imprisonment and Rs. 5 lakh in cases of death of the victim. Planning or conspiracy to lynching will be given the same punishment, and the bill includes punishments for those impeding justice. The bill requires the appointment of a nodal officer to prevent lynchings at the rank of Inspector or higher. The bill also provides a compensation package to the families of the victim as well as directions to the state for the rehabilitation of the family, setting up of relief camps for all victims of the violence.

Critique of the Bill:

The Bill is still limited, as it does not address the cause of lynchings, but only the aftermath. Studies of lynchings in India have shown that victims of lynchings are socially and economically vulnerable members of society. Victims and their families are often subject to further hostility from the local community and the bill does not address needs of those who were economically dependent on the victim particularly the needs of the elderly, women and children who were reliant on the victim. Compensation schemes should ideally make the economic situations of the families better than they were before lynchings.
The Bill also does not address situations where perpetrators include state actors as well. In cases of encounter killings and administrative indifference, the lines between lynchings and encounter-killings can blurry and the bill only covers action by the state and does not provide mechanisms to cases when the state itself is part of the violence.
The Bill does not address when the fallout of the lynching is a culture of fear. Beyond the victim and their families, lynchings have been used to promote a culture of fear and hate against communities and practices by members of those communities, which impinges upon the Right to freedom of expression, as given in Article 19 of the Constitution and the Right to Life and Personal Liberties in Article 21 of the Constitution. As lynching can be a political tool to enforce a social order based on suppressing those rights, the response to lynching needs to undo that suppression.

Pehlu Khan case

 On Wednesday, a Rajasthan court acquitted all six men accused of lynching Pehlu Khan to death in 2017. The accused men were let off on the benefit of the doubt despite video evidence of the incident. Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, was beaten to death allegedly by self-proclaimed cow vigilantes on suspicion of cow smuggling in Alwar district in 2017. The crime grabbed national headlines when a video showing a mob of cow vigilantes beat up Pehlu Khan went viral on social media.

Ashok Gehlot, present CM said that the Rajasthan government will monitor the court proceedings of cases like those of Pehlu Khan’s. “In the Pehlu Khan case, the previous govt intentionally shielded the accused. Now this heinous crime will be investigated separately. A monitoring cell will be created to probe this crime,” said Gehlot.

Pehlu Khan’s younger son, Mubarik who drives a lorry said, “I have invested nine months of my earning in pursuing the case in court. When I heard about the judgment I was shattered. Two of my brothers stay at home and not earn because of the court case. Justice is denied because police diluted the case and produced no evidence.”

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