July 04, 2017

India: Activists of National Campaign Against Mob Lynching draft 'Human Security Bill'

The Telegraph

Activists draft lynch 'bill'
Pheroze L. Vincent

New Delhi, July 3: Activists will launch the draft of a purported criminal law against lynching on Friday and begin canvassing ruling and Opposition lawmakers to try and get it tabled in Parliament.

"A website will be set up for people to provide suggestions," said JNU student Shehla Rashid, one of the leaders of the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching, which is behind the draft "Human Security Bill".

Activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Dalit spearhead Jignesh Mevani and JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar are among the other leaders of the campaign, launched last month after several Muslims were lynched in Jharkhand and Rajasthan, mostly by cow vigilantes.

The draft "bill" criminalises inaction by authorities as well as indirect incitement of mobs through vilification.

"Our existing laws cover murder and unlawful assembly. In a case of lynching, the victim may not know the perpetrator. A lynching is based on the identity of the victim," senior Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Hegde, who heads the campaign's drafting committee, told The Telegraph.

"The existing laws do not look at the factors leading to the lynching, such as campaigns and demonisation. This draft fixes the responsibility for administrative and police inaction. It also provides for prosecuting those who may not have directly participated in the mob but are complicit in inciting them."

Hegde cited how the law against sexual assault was overhauled after the December 2012 Delhi bus brutality despite the apprehensions voiced about the possible misuse of the more stringent provisions.

"We cannot sit and do nothing for fear of a law being abused. The draft will be open to suggestions and, in any case, it is Parliament and the state legislatures that debate and enact laws. We are merely providing a draft," he said.

In 2013, the Criminal Law Amendment Act had expanded the definition of rape and criminalised sexual relations with girls below 18 while adding sections against acid attacks, voyeurism, stalking and other forms sexual assault or harassment.

Rashid said the committee would present a copy of the draft to the Prime Minister's Office before the launch at the Constitution Club here.

"We shall also announce an advocacy campaign with lawmakers to press for the bill's tabling during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament. We plan to march to Parliament during the session," Rashid said.

The "bill" makes lynching a non-bailable offence, punishable with life imprisonment. It also covers attempted lynching, where the victim survives the mob attack. It makes relief and rehabilitation of the survivors and the families of the dead mandatory.

A day before the launch, families of lynching victims from Rajasthan will address a meeting in Jaipur.

Activist Nadim Khan said that family members of CPIML Liberation activist Zafar Khan, who was lynched by municipal staff in Pratapgarh, would speak at the meeting. So will relatives of victims from Sikar district.

"Activists across ideological lines are collaborating to confront mob violence legally. Our goal is to move beyond mere publicity and have movements in every state against this trend, and join hands to provide legal aid to the victims," Khan said.

Dalit activist Prakash Ambedkar has been invited to the meeting.