Explainer: Jharkhand's anti-mob lynching bill

Published on Dec 23, 2021 06:22 PM IST

HT looks at the law, the opposition to it by the BJP, and how it differs from the laws in the other two states.

People shout anti-government slogans during a protest against what the demonstrators say are recent mob lynchings across the country, in Ahmedabad, in July 2018.(Reuters File Photo) PREMIUM
People shout anti-government slogans during a protest against what the demonstrators say are recent mob lynchings across the country, in Ahmedabad, in July 2018.(Reuters File Photo)

RANCHI: The Jharkhand assembly on December 21 passed the ‘Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021’ that provides for varying jail terms ranging from three years to life imprisonment and a monetary fine up to 25 lakh against those involved in mob lynching.

The law also provides for punishment for ‘conspiracy or abetment or attempt to lynch’; ‘obstructing legal process’; ‘dissemination of offensive material’ and ‘enforcing a hostile environment’, besides compensation for the victims as per the ‘compensation scheme’ of the state government.

With the passage of the Bill, Jharkhand becomes the third state after West Bengal and Rajasthan, to have put in place such a law. HT looks at the law, the opposition to it by the BJP, and how it differs from the laws in the other two states.

‘Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021

As per the new law, if in any incident where the act leads to the victim suffering hurt, those convicted shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees and may extend up to three lakh.

"...where the act leads to the victim suffering grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and with fine which shall not be less than three lakh rupees and may extend up to five lakh rupees...where the act leads to the death of the victim, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for life and with fine which shall not be less than 25 lakh, and the movable and immovable properties shall be attached," reads the Bill.

Besides punishment for being involved in lynching, the Bill also aims to put in place a top-to-bottom mechanism, with an Inspector General rank police officer to be appointed as nodal officers in different areas, with clearly laid out powers and duties of the police officer and the district magistrates 'to prevent acts of lynching' and 'exercise authority against mobs'.

MAJOR DIFFERENCE IN PROVISIONS WITH OTHER STATES

While the law passed in Jharkhand provides for the maximum punishment of life imprisonment in case of death of a victim, the law passed by the West Bengal assembly on August 30, 2019, provides for capital punishment as the harshest sentence.

A similar demand was made during the discussions over the Bill in the Jharkhand assembly by Congress legislator Dipika Pandey Singh, but it was not accepted by the government. The Jharkhand law, however, provides monetary compensation up to 25 lakh as against the maximum monetary compensation of 5 lakh in the West Bengal law.

The law passed in Rajasthan also provides for the maximum punishment of life imprisonment, besides maximum monetary compensation of 5 lakh. However, the Rajasthan law also provides for the rehabilitation of the victim family if it is displaced due to any incident of mob lynching.

CPI (ML) legislator Binod Singh too had demanded a similar provision of rehabilitation during the discussion in the Jharkhand assembly. However, it was turned down by the treasury bench.

MAJOR CONTENTIONS BY THE OPPOSITION BJP

BJP legislator Amit Mandal, who moved five amendments, said the government seems to have brought the Bill in haste, with an eye on appeasing “a particular community.” He particularly raised the issue of the definition of a mob in the passed Bill. As per the Bill, ‘mob’ means a group of two or more individuals.

Mandal also underlined that district magistrates have been given undue powers to act in case of an ‘apprehension of lynching’. “The District Magistrate under sub-section (1) shall take every possible action to the best of his ability to prevent the creation of a hostile environment against a person or group of persons which, in his opinion, are likely to become the target of an act of lynching,” the Bill reads.

“The officials who have framed the draft of the Bill seemed to have invented a new definition of a mob. They should check the definition of a mob in the Oxford dictionary. Also, immense arbitrary power is being given to the police and district magistrate that could be misused even for trivial issues even against political opponents,” said Mandal in the House, demanding the Bill be sent to a select committee for detailed deliberations.

The BJP legislator also described the word ‘Durbal (weak)’ as vague which has been used in the objective of the Bill, according to which the law aims to provide protection to such people. “A police constable Ratanlal was lynched during the anti-CAA protests. Will such incidents be covered under the definition of ‘Durbal’?” said Mandal while arguing for the Bill to be sent for review.

MAJOR CASES OF LYNCHING IN RECENT YEARS IN JHARKHAND

The bill has been introduced in a state that has seen several instances of mob violence, that form the basis for the law. These are some of the cases that have occurred in the last five years alone.

September 19, 2019: A septuagenarian man was beaten to death by a mob on suspicion of being a child lifter in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district.

July 22, 2019: Four people in their 60s, including two women, were killed after around a dozen angry villagers dragged them out of their houses and attacked them with sticks and sharp weapons while accusing them of practising “witchcraft” at Siskari in Jharkhand’s Gumla district.

June 17, 2019: An alleged thief, Tabrez Ansari was beaten by a mob in Saraiela-Kharsawan district, four days after which he died in hospital. The incident hit national headlines as a purported video went viral where he was seen forced by the mob to chant slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram'.

April 10, 2019: A tribal man was lynched to death and three others were injured after they were beaten by a mob in the state’s Gumla district.

June 29, 2017: A mob lynched a trader accused of transporting beef in his vehicle in Ramgarh district.

March 18, 2016: Two Muslim men herding cattle to a local market were killed and found hanging from a tree in Jharkhand’s Latehar district.

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