Press Trust of India

Will A New Law Against Lynching Solve The Problem?

Lynching and mob violence across the country, either by cow vigilantes or triggered by WhatsApp rumours, have dominated the headlines over the last few weeks. The Supreme Court recently issued a slew of directives to curb such cases and asked Parliament to enact a new law. But will that solve the problem?

“Lynching is a grossly misused word,” said Alok Prasanna Kumar, senior fellow at Vidhi Center for Legal Policy. Kumar distinguishes lynching from mob violence, pointing out the victim’s “social identity”. Clubbing incidents of lynching cattle traders with violence against suspected child lifters would be incorrect, he argued.

In lynching, victims’ social identity—Muslim or Dalit—is a key marker of why they are attacked. 
Alok Prasanna Kumar, Senior Fellow, Vidhi Center for Legal Policy

Kumar argues a specific law for hate crime is needed.

Sidharth Luthra, senior advocate in the Supreme Court, doesn’t agree. Luthra said the motive for violence need not be made into a separate offence and existing laws adequately cover crimes of violence resulting in death.

A host of provisions deal with separate areas of human conduct and cover the gamut of cases that may arise, when either an individual or a group of people, for whatever reason, perpetrate for whatever reason violence on the other which may cause death. 
Sidharth Luthra, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court

The debate over a law for lynching comes at a time when the government has set up two committees to look at the problem of mob violence. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that a new law would be considered, if required.

“I am not the biggest proponent of new laws,” said Supreme Court Advocate Aishwarya Bhati. If changes are to be made, they should be to the existing laws governing the police which are archaic and outdated, he said.

India has some of the best laws in the world. Where we really lack is the implementation of these laws.
Aishwarya Bhati, Supreme Court Advocate

A draft law named Protection against Lynching Act 2017 has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha as a private member’s bill. Popularly called MaSuKa (Manav Suraksha Kanoon), it’s being pushed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla who also petitioned the Supreme Court to act against instances of mob violence.

Poonawala stresses the need for a new law to tackle lynching, pointing out how despite a broader legal framework, special laws have been drafted to protect scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and women.

I don’t believe any law in itself will be the complete solution, but I do believe this law covers most aspects.
Tehseen Poonawalla, Social Activist and Congress Leader