Four years since the court’s judgement, Jharkhand is only the fourth state (after Manipur, Rajasthan and West Bengal) to have passed a legislation to combat mob-lynching and violence.
On 21 December, lawmakers in Jharkhand passed The Jharkhand (Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching) Bill, 2021 into a law. The opposition BJP opposed the law. The credit for the legislation in the state, of course, goes to Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
The law follows on an important judgement of the Supreme Court of India in the Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India. To reproduce parts of the judgement, the court observed, “Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself. We may say without any fear of contradiction that lynching by unruly mobs and barbaric violence arising out of incitement and instigation cannot be allowed to become the order of the day.”
The apex court directed the home ministry to initiate work in co-ordination with state governments for sensitising law enforcement agencies and by involving all stakeholders to identify the measures for prevention of mob violence and lynching.
Hate crimes as a product of intolerance
The court also recommended legislatures to make a special law to deal with the offence of lynching and provide adequate punishment for the same.
Lawmakers, it seems, have turned a deaf ear to what the supreme court said. Almost four years since the court’s judgement, Jharkhand is only the fourth state (after Manipur, Rajasthan and West Bengal) to have passed a legislation to combat mob-lynching and violence.
The apex court had propounded guidelines for the State to deal with mob-lynching and vigilante violence. It emphasised on the preventative part of dealing with mob-lynchings when it said, “Hate crimes as a product of intolerance, ideological dominance and prejudice ought not to be tolerated; lest it results in a reign of terror. Extra judicial elements and non-State actors cannot be allowed to take the place of law or the law enforcing agency. A fabricated identity with bigoted approach sans acceptance of plurality and diversity results in provocative sentiments and display of reactionary retributive attitude transforming itself into dehumanisation of human beings.”
A diligent state police hold the key
State governments have been directed to designate a senior police officer as a nodal officer to prevent mob violence and lynching by procuring intelligence reports about people who are likely to commit such crimes or are involved in spreading hate speeches, making provocative statements and spreading fake news.
The Jharkhand law, does justice to the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court. The Act incriminates any act of violence on grounds of religion, race, sex, place of birth, language, eating habits, sexual orientation and political affiliation. It further makes it a statutory duty of the Police to prevent lynchings (Section 6 of the Act).
The Act provides for heavy punishment to offenders – including rigorous imprisonment for life with a fine of up to Rs. 20 lakhs for causing death by an act of lynching. Even causing hurt by an act of lynching can be punishable for up to three years (and a fine in excess of Rs. One lakh).
The law also makes it the duty of all hospitals to provide free first aid and medical treatment and provides for compensation by the state government to all victims of mob lynching and violence.
In toto, the legislation provides for preventive, remedial and punitive measures as directed by the apex court. What remains to be seen now is the effective enforcement and implementation of the law, and the diligence of the state police to fulfil their duties as laid down in the Legislation.