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What The New Criminal Law Bill Says About 'Mob Lynching' & Is It Enough?

The new bill (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023) does not mention “mob lynching” specifically.

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"Mob lynching ka bada shor macha hua hai. Humne usko carefully kara hai...mob lynching ke liye bhi saat saal, aajeewan karavas aur mrityudand...teeno ka pravadhan laya hai," Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on 11 August, while introducing the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023 and the two other bills meant to “overhaul the criminal justice system.”

(There has been a lot of hue and cry about mob lynching, we have seen it very carefully. There are provisions for 7 years imprisonment or life imprisonment and death penalty for mob lynching in this law.)

Legal experts, however, seem to think that the provision is “insufficient.” Why? And how do current laws deal with mob lynching cases? We explain.

What The New Criminal Law Bill Says About 'Mob Lynching' & Is It Enough?

  1. 1. What The New Bill Says About Mob Lynching

    The new bill (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023) does not mention “mob lynching” specifically.

    But within the clause that outlines the punishment for murder (Section 101 (2)) the bill says,”When a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other ground” each member of that group shall be punished with:

    • Death

    • Or imprisonment for life 

    • or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years

    • and shall also be liable to fine

    Expand
  2. 2. How Are Mob Lynching Cases Currently Being Dealt With?

    While the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has no separate provision for mob lynching either, any murder is tried and punished as under section 302 IPC (punishment for murder)  which says:

    “Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

    Meanwhile, in a 2018 ruling (Tehseen S Poonawalla vs Union Of India), the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures" to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.

    These directions, among other things, included compensating families of victims and taking action “against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators.”

    Expand
  3. 3. So Why Are Experts Saying That The New Provision Is Not Enough?

    While delivering the Tehseen Poonawalla judgment, the top court had asked the Parliament to draft a new law to effectively deal with offences of mob lynching.

    “But, even though the directions set forth by the Supreme Court included several measures to address mob lynching including punishing officers – none of that has found its way to the new bills. If the new bill becomes law without addressing all of that, the guidelines won’t matter anymore,” Anas Tanwir, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court, said.

    That’s not all.

    “Under the Indian Penal Code the minimum punishment for such offences is either life imprisonment or death. But with the new bill an option for seven years has also been added. That effectively lowers down the sentencing and the quantification of the sentence. This provision is insufficient," Tanwir added.

    Experts think that it is a step in the right direction to have a law which defines murder on grounds of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief. But the punishment prescribed raises concerns.

    “The punishment bit is problematic because as of now (under IPC) there is no option of giving 7 years punishment. with the new bill the judge can now choose to award 7 years. When someone is killed based on their caste, personal beliefs and so on, it is a very heinous crime. So, how can you let someone get off with seven years?” Paras Nath Singh, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court, pointed out.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What The New Bill Says About Mob Lynching

The new bill (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023) does not mention “mob lynching” specifically.

But within the clause that outlines the punishment for murder (Section 101 (2)) the bill says,”When a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other ground” each member of that group shall be punished with:

  • Death

  • Or imprisonment for life 

  • or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years

  • and shall also be liable to fine

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How Are Mob Lynching Cases Currently Being Dealt With?

While the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has no separate provision for mob lynching either, any murder is tried and punished as under section 302 IPC (punishment for murder)  which says:

“Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Meanwhile, in a 2018 ruling (Tehseen S Poonawalla vs Union Of India), the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions to provide "preventive, remedial and punitive measures" to deal with offences like mob violence and cow vigilantism.

These directions, among other things, included compensating families of victims and taking action “against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators.”

0

So Why Are Experts Saying That The New Provision Is Not Enough?

While delivering the Tehseen Poonawalla judgment, the top court had asked the Parliament to draft a new law to effectively deal with offences of mob lynching.

“But, even though the directions set forth by the Supreme Court included several measures to address mob lynching including punishing officers – none of that has found its way to the new bills. If the new bill becomes law without addressing all of that, the guidelines won’t matter anymore,” Anas Tanwir, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court, said.

That’s not all.

“Under the Indian Penal Code the minimum punishment for such offences is either life imprisonment or death. But with the new bill an option for seven years has also been added. That effectively lowers down the sentencing and the quantification of the sentence. This provision is insufficient," Tanwir added.

Experts think that it is a step in the right direction to have a law which defines murder on grounds of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief. But the punishment prescribed raises concerns.

“The punishment bit is problematic because as of now (under IPC) there is no option of giving 7 years punishment. with the new bill the judge can now choose to award 7 years. When someone is killed based on their caste, personal beliefs and so on, it is a very heinous crime. So, how can you let someone get off with seven years?” Paras Nath Singh, Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court, pointed out.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mob Lynchings 

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