Six months have passed since the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the Union and State governments to protect India’s ‘pluralist social fabric’ from mob violence. Manipur became the first to pass a remarkable law against lynching, late last year.
- The Manipur law closely follows the Supreme Court’s prescriptions, creating a nodal officer to control such crimes in every State, special courts and enhanced punishments.
- Its definition of lynching is comprehensive and covers many comprehensive areas such as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting such act/acts thereof, whether spontaneous or planned, by a mob on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or any other related grounds .…”
Best feature of the law –
It lays down that “any police officer directly in charge of maintaining law and order in an area, omits to exercise lawful authority vested in them under the law, without reasonable cause, and thereby fails to prevent lynching shall be guilty of dereliction of duty” and will be liable “to punishment of imprisonment of one year, which may extend to three years, and with fine that may extend to fifty thousand rupees”.
Salient features –
- It removes the protection that is otherwise extended to public officials charged with any offence committed while acting in their discharge of official duty. The Manipur law means that now no prior sanction of the State Government is required to register crimes against public officials who fail in their duties to prevent hate crimes such as lynching.
- It does away with the requirement of prior state sanction before acting on a hate crime. All hate crimes today should attract Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which is related to fostering enmity between people on the basis of religion, race, language and so on. But registering this crime requires prior permission of the State government, and most governments use this power to shield perpetrators of hate crimes who are politically and ideologically aligned to the ruling establishment. The Manipur law does away with this requirement, which would make acting against hate crimes far more effective and non-partisan.
- It clearly lays down the duty and responsibility of the State government to make arrangements for the protection of victims and witnesses against any kind of intimidation, coercion, inducement, violence or threats of violence. It also prescribes the duty of State officials to prevent a hostile environment against people of the community who have been lynched, which includes economic and social boycott, and humiliation through excluding them from public services such as education, health and transport, threats and evictions.
The last substantial contribution of the law is requiring the state to formulate a scheme for relief camps and rehabilitation in case of displacement of victims, and death compensation.
- The law excludes from its provisions solitary hate crimes. For the law to apply instead it requires that these hate crimes are undertaken by mobs (defined as a group of two or more individuals, assembled with a common intention of lynching), thereby excluding from its provisions solitary hate crimes.
- This restriction of numbers is arbitrary, since the essence of what distinguishes these kinds of crimes is not the numbers of attackers but the motivation of hate behind the crimes; therefore, provisions of this law should apply to all hate crimes, not just lynching, regardless of the numbers of persons who participate.
- The law needs to prescribe a much more expansive framework of mandatory gender-sensitive reparation on an atonement model, requiring the state to ensure that the victim of hate violence is assisted to achieve material conditions that are better than what they were before the violence, and that women, the elderly and children are supported regularly with monthly pensions over time.
If emulated by the Union and other State governments, such a sterling law could substantially prevent hate attacks, ensure public officials are faithful to their constitutional responsibilities and victims, and that their families and communities are assured of protection and justice. This is the India we must claim — of safety, fairness and fraternity.
Source – The Hindu