Recently, the Rajasthan Assembly passed a new law against mob lynching. Another Congress government, in Madhya Pradesh, recently introduced a Bill that seeks to curb cow vigilantism. The State Law Commission in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, has drafted the UP Combating of Mob Lynching Bill, 2019, and submitted it to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

What is different
While the Rajasthan law and the UP draft are new, the proposed law in MP is an amendment to the existing Madhya Pradesh Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Act, 2004, which is against cow slaughter. The amendments propose a jail term and a fine for those who attack, or damage property of, people booked, or likely to be booked, for offences like slaughter of cow progeny, possession of beef or transporting cow progeny for slaughter.

These moves follow the Supreme Court’s directions to Parliament last year, in the wake of a series of lynching incidents, to come up with a special law. The Bench directed the Centre and states to carry out its directions within four weeks. The Centre informed Lok Sabha that it had created a Group of Ministers and a high-level committee to “deliberate” and “make recommendations” for a separate penal provision for mob violence.

Rajasthan Bill
The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019 makes mob lynching a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence punishable with life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh. It defines lynching as “any act or series of acts of violence or aiding, abetting or attempting an act of violence, 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”.

Offences will be investigated by a police officer of the rank of inspector and above, and the DGP will appoint an officer of the rank of IG or above as State Coordinator. In cases of “hurt” and “grievous hurt”, the convict may get up to seven and 10 years in jail respectively; if it leads to death, the punishment is life imprisonment. The Bill also makes conspirators accountable.

Rajasthan had witnessed a number of lynchings in 2017, beginning with that of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in April 2017.

Madhya Pradesh Bill
The Bill seeks to amend Sub-section (2) of Section 9 of the 2004 Act and propose a minimum jail term of six months that may be extended to one year. When the same offence is committed by members of illegal assembly (mob) the minimum term will increase to one year and the maximum to five years. The Bill proposes a lower term for those who abet and those who attempt to commit the crime. The punishment will double in case of those convicted for an offence they were previously convicted of. The minimum fine is Rs 5,000 and the maximum Rs 50,000. The Bill seeks to insert Section 6D. While the rules are yet to be formed, these will specify who issues the transit permit of cow progeny, which will be pasted prominently on the vehicle. There is no provision in the 2004 legislation for issuing transit permit from other states.

What next in MP
Following the BJP’s demand, the Assembly Speaker has agreed to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. The BJP has opposed the Bill, accusing the Congress of appeasement politics. The BJP says provisions already exist in the IPC to punish such offences. “Instead of bringing a separate law against mob lynching as recommended by the Supreme Court, the government has brought a law to protect those who slaughter cows,’’ alleged former Home Minister Bhupendra Singh.