MASUKA, Protect Innocents from Lynching, Draft Bill to Be Released on Friday

“Protection from Lynching Act”, Manav Suraksha Kanoon (Human Security Bill), a draft law against mob lynchings will be released on Friday. "A website will be set up for people to provide suggestions," said JNU student Shehla Rashid, one of the faces of the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching, which is behind the draft "Human Security Bill". Simulataneously a campaign will be started among Opposition lawmakers to try and get it tabled in Parliament.

Not In My name

Activist Tehseen Poonawalla, JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Gujarat Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani are among the other leaders of the campaign, launched last month after several Muslims were lynched in Jharkhand and Rajasthan, mostly by cow vigilantes. Senior counsel, Sanjay Hedge was part of the core group that drafted the law called ‘Protection from Lynching Act”

The draft "bill" criminalises inaction by authorities as well as indirect incitement of mobs through vilification. Under the draft law, “lynching” shall mean any act or series of acts of violence as extra judicial punishment, whether spontaneous or planned, committed to inflict summary punishment, or as an act of protest upon a person. Punishment is a maximum of life imprisonment for the crime, once prosecuted.

Police officers and district magistrates who “wilfully omits to exercise lawful authority vested in him under this Act and thereby fails to prevent the commission of any act of lynching, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. There is also a provision for compensation that will not be less than Rs 25 lakhs.

The draft law also makes specific provisions for the crimes for the “Punishment for Conspiracy or Abetment to Lynch”. “Whoever takes part in a conspiracy or conspires  to lynch another person, or abets an act of lynching shall be punished in the same manner as if he had taken part in the actual incident of lynching.”. Those persons who are proven to have “assisted” the  offenders shall also be due for punishment. Significantly, “Punishment for giving financial aid for the commission of lynching”
includes those who “knowingly expends or supplies any money in furtherance or in support of an act which is an offence under this Act, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
"Our existing laws cover murder and unlawful assembly. In a case of lynching, the victim may not know the perpetrator. A lynching is based on the identity of the victim," senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde, who heads the campaign's drafting committee, said.

"The existing laws do not look at the factors leading to the lynching, such as campaigns and demonisation. This draft fixes the responsibility for administrative and police inaction. It also provides for prosecuting those who may not have directly participated in the mob but are complicit in inciting them."

Hegde cited how the law against sexual assault was overhauled after the December 2012 Delhi bus brutality despite the apprehensions voiced about the possible misuse of the more stringent provisions.
"We cannot sit and do nothing for fear of a law being abused. The draft will be open to suggestions and, in any case, it is Parliament and the state legislatures that debate and enact laws. We are merely providing a draft," he said.

In 2013, the Criminal Law Amendment Act had expanded the definition of rape and criminalised sexual relations with girls below 18 while adding sections against acid attacks, voyeurism, stalking and other forms sexual assault or harassment.Rashid said the committee would present a copy of the draft to the Prime Minister's Office before the launch at the Constitution Club here.

 "We shall also announce an advocacy campaign with lawmakers to press for the bill's tabling during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. We plan to march to Parliament during the session," Rashid said.

The "bill" makes lynching a non-bailable offence, punishable with life imprisonment. It also covers attempted lynching, where the victim survives the mob attack. It makes relief and rehabilitation of the survivors and the families of the dead mandatory.

A day before the launch, families of lynching victims from Rajasthan will address a meeting in Jaipur.Activist Nadim Khan said that family members of CPIML Liberation activist Zafar Khan, who was lynched by municipal staff in Pratapgarh, would speak at the meeting. So will relatives of victims from Sikar district.

"Activists across ideological lines are collaborating to confront mob violence legally. Our goal is to move beyond mere publicity and have movements in every state against this trend, and join hands to provide legal aid to the victims," Khan said.

Senior Dalit leader and activist Dr Prakash Ambedkar will be among many persons who will address the meeting at the launch of the draft law.



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