Why does BJP not want this law?

Women hold placards and candles during a protest against recent mob lynchings across the country, in Ahmedabad. REUTERS/ File photo

With the passing of the Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, Rajasthan has become the second state to bring forward a law against mob lynching, after Manipur. The Supreme Court had last year suggested the enactment of such legislation by all states to deal with the problem of lynching, mostly directed against minority communities, on the pretext of cow slaughter, beef eating, etc. It is appropriate that Rajasthan has enacted the law because many of the mob lynching incidents in the country after 2014 took place in that state. A separate law against mob lynching is considered necessary because it has evolved into a category of crimes with specific characteristics and social, political and communal dimensions. They are hate crimes, and vigilante mobs have committed them in states ruled by the BJP in the past few years, and the governments in these state have hardly made any attempt to prevent them, penalise them and bring their perpetrators to book. A separate law would help to define the crime better and make it easier to tackle it. 

The bill makes lynching a cognisable and non-bailable offence, and it covers all acts of violence, spontaneous or planned, by a mob on grounds of religion, language, race, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc. Even two persons can constitute a mob, as defined by it. The crime is punishable with seven years’ imprisonment and a fine if the victim is injured and life term in case of the victim’s death. It also prescribes compensation for and rehabilitation of the victims. These are welcome features, but the bill would have been more comprehensive if it had prescribed penalties for the police and other authorities for not providing protection to victims when it is sought and needed, for failure to register cases or to undermine them. Most lynching cases have become weak because of deliberate inaction or negligence on the part of the police. 

It is unfortunate that the BJP, which is the main opposition party in Rajasthan, opposed the bill, that too on flimsy and untenable grounds. It argued that the provision that two people can be considered a mob may lead to other crimes being classified as mob violence. But this is not true because the offence has to have other characteristics also defined in the law. The party also said that the aim of the bill is to please one community. This, too, is a wrong argument. The state has to protect and ensure justice to the victims, whether they are from one community or the other. Opposition to the law only exposes the party’s unjustifiable stance on mob lynching and the poor record of its governments in dealing with them. 

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