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The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has drawn a draft legislation for combating mob lynching, recommending jail terms ranging from seven years to life imprisonment for assailants and up to three years for dereliction of duty by a police officer or district magistrate.

The draft law is part of a report based on a study undertaken suo motu by the Commission – the government had not commissioned it. The report along with the draft Bill was submitted to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday, July 10, by State Law Commission Chairman Justice (retd) Aditya Nath Mittal, according to media reports.

In the introduction to the report, Justice Mittal noted that “one of the most stringing descriptions of the dangers of mob violence was Mark Twain’s response to a racial lynching in Missouri in 1901. He saw in it the danger of America turning into ‘United States of Lyncherdom’.” More than a century later, the secular Republic of India “appears to be amidst the shadow of a similar fear,” he said.

The 128-page report cited various cases of lynching in the state and recommended the immediate enactment of a law as per recommendations made by the Supreme Court in 2018.The report said only Manipur has made a special law against lynchings and, as per media reports, the Madhya Pradesh government is soon going to enact it.

The Supreme Court had in July 2018 issued a series of remedial and punitive measures to the Centre and state governments to curb mob lynching, demanding them to be implemented within four weeks.Noting that “mobocracy cannot be allowed in democracy”, the court had asked the governments to ensure that law and order is maintained. It had recommended the governments to enact a law that specifically addresses cases of lynching.

The UP State Law Commission’s report says the existing law is not sufficient to deal with mob lynchings and there is need for a law to not just punish the wrongdoers but also hold authorities responsible for dereliction of duty if such incidents take place under their watch.

Suggesting that such a law may be called the Uttar Pradesh Combating of Mob Lynching Act, the commission specified the responsibilities of police officers and district magistrates, spelling out the punishment for failing in their duty.

As per the available data from 2012 to 2019, 50 incidents of mob violence have taken place in the state.

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Of around 50 victims, 11 died. Twenty-five of these were cases of major assault, including those by cow vigilantes.

It referred to various cases of lynching and mob violence in the state, including the 2015 killing of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri on the suspicion of beef consumption.

It mentioned the killing of Inspector Subodh Singh on December 3, 2018, in a clash between police and Hindutva groups in Bulandshahr after cattle carcasses were found in a field.

The chairman noted that mobs were now turning on police as well. “Incidents of mob violence have taken place in districts of Farukkhabad, Unnao, Kanpur, Hapur and Muzaffarnagar. Police are also becoming victims as people have started thinking of them as their enemy,” Mittal said in the report.

“The killing of a head constable in Ghazipur and a jail warden are examples of this,” he said.

Underlining that mob lynching be made a separate offence to inculcate fear among miscreants, the commission’s draft law recommends stringent punishment:

* Imprisonment up to 7 years and fine up to Rs 1 lakh if the victim is injured.

* Imprisonment up to 10 years and fine up to Rs 3 lakh if victim suffers serious injuries.

* Rigorous imprisonment for life and fine up to Rs 5 lakh if the victim dies.

* Those involved in conspiracy, abetment be punished like those actually involved in lynching.

* In case of dereliction of duty by police officer or district magistrate, imprisonment of one year, which may be extended to three years and fine up to Rs 5000.

* Imprisonment of six months for contributing or enforcing a hostile environment.

The draft Bill defines “lynching”, “mob”, “victim” and “offensive material”  as well as also “hostile environment” created against the victim or family, including boycott of trade, public humiliation, depriving fundamental rights, and forcing a person to leave home etc.

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To hasten the trial process, the report suggests that cases of mob lynching should be assigned to designated judges, who should conduct the trial on a priority basis.

The panel said the law should also provide for compensation to the family of the victim for grievous injury or loss of loss of life and property. There should also be provisions for the rehabilitation of the victims and their families, it said.

Sapna Tripathi, Secretary of the State Law Commission, told The Indian Express: “The commission realised that mob lynching is a global problem faced even by US, countries in Africa etc for long. Thus, the commission thought of undertaking a suo motu study in this regard about six months ago. We also took into account directions of the Supreme Court and High Courts in different cases.”

“The commission only recommends and proposes to state government, it is up to the state government to accept it or take it forward.” She said the commission’s next study is on “anti-conversion laws” related to conversion of religion for the purpose of marriage.

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