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Revised Criminal Law Bill: Death & Life-Term for Mob Lynching, Hate-Crime Murder

In the earlier version of the bill, the punishment prescribed for mob-lynching was from seven years to death.

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The revised Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS) 2023 Bill, tabled and passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 20 December, now prescribes a punishment for mob lynching and hate-crime murder that extends from life imprisonment to death.

In the earlier version of the BNS Bill, introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in August 2023, the punishment prescribed for the said offences were between seven years to death.

These changes come nearly a month after the Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by BJP MP Brij Lal, had recommended some key changes to the three bills introduced to overhaul India's criminal law.

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What The New Bill Says About Mob Lynching, Hate-Crime 

The BNS Bill had made mob lynching and hate crime a separate category of murder for the first time.

However, both the versions of the bill does not mention “mob lynching” specifically. Instead the offence deals with cases when a "group" of five or more individuals commits murder based on factors such as race, caste, community, or personal belief.

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Within the clause that outlines the punishment for murder (Section 103 (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 

  • And shall also be liable to a fine

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What Did the IPC Say?

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.”

Over the last few years, there has been a rise in the number of mob lynching and hate-crime murders witnessed in India.

Introducing it in the Lok Sabha in August, Amit Shah had then said, "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. (There has been a lot of noise about mob lynching. We have carefully drafted it. We have given 7 years of sentence for it, and in worst cases have prescribed a death sentence.)

However, when introduced, the punishment for such offences were under scrutiny.

Several experts argued that the lesser sentence in the earlier version of the Bill meant that hate crimes carried a lesser sentence than murder otherwise committed which carries a life sentence.

In August, The Quint spoke to experts who felt 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, they said.

“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, had pointed out.

However, with the revision, it brings it on par with sentences prescribed for other forms of murder.

(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:  Lok Sabha 

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