Secretary panel explores three options to deal with lynching cases
A committee of top civil servants is looking at three options to deal with cases of lynching — a model law that states can emulate, a central law with states passing their own enabling legislation and amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to strengthen the legal response to what the Supreme Court (SC) has termed “mobocracy”.
The committee of secretaries headed by Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba, which held its first meeting on Friday, met on Saturday with Tehseen Poonawalla, who filed a petition in the SC seeking a separate legislation to deal with lynching, people familiar with the matter said. Poonawalla made a presentation before the panel on a draft anti-lynching bill called ‘Manav Suraksha Kanoon’ (human protection law).
A home ministry spokesperson refused to comment on the deliberations of the committee, which has to make its recommendations to a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union home minister Rajnath Singh in four weeks. The GoM ,which also consists of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, will then report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the measures recommended to deal with incidents of lynching and mob violence.
“I was called for a presentation on the draft central legislation suggested by us. During the interaction, first question came from the home secretary, who wanted to deliberate why there is a need for a separate law. I explained that so far there is no set definition of lynching, which is different from mob violence or rioting. First we need to define it in order to punish those who are responsible for it,” said Poonawalla.
The Supreme Court asked the Parliament earlier this month to come up with an anti-lynching law, and laid down preventive, remedial, and punitive measures against the backdrop of a spate of such incidents. Close to 30 people have died in these incidents across the country since the first week of May.
Poonawalla said another member of the panel asked a question on the amendment of existing provisions of the CrPC.
“I argued that whenever the Parliament has enacted a special law like the Schedule Cast and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, it has helped in bringing down the number of incidents and victims. Therefore the Parliament needs to enact a law with provision for enabling legislation by the states. Once passed by the Parliament, the central legislation will be the minimum what a state government will be required to do in this regard. I also informed the panel about the similar kind of legislations passed by other countries,” said Poonawalla.
Besides the home secretary, the panel consists of Union secretaries for legal affairs, legislative affairs, justice and social justice and empowerment.
“The committee has just begun its deliberations. Every aspect of the problem like a quick response to check spreading of rumours on social media and compensation for victims of mob violence too are being deliberated,” said an official familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity.
Pitching for a central law, Poonawalla said the Constitution provides for protection of minorities but while defining minorities, there is a need to look beyond religion. “We will have to consider linguistic, cultural and gender-based minorities too while protecting them from being lynched. Therefore, I proposed that they should be defined as vulnerable people instead of minorities in the legislation,” said Poonawalla.
In the latest incident of lynching, a man identified as Rakbar Khan died on July 22 after he was beaten up in Rajasthan’s Alwar district by a group that suspected him to be a cow smuggler. The apex court said it will hear a contempt plea against the Rajasthan government for violating court directives in the case. The matter will be heard on August 20.