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Indian Polity

Asaduddin Owaisi (File photo).   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi sent notice of a private members' Bill to combat incidents of mob lynchings, with sections that enjoin penalties of a minimum of ten years imprisonment on public servants for “acts of omission”.

“The Bill criminalises the act of mob violence as well as acts of omission by public servants. As we have seen in the Pehlu Khan case, two of the accused have not been arrested yet and similar slowing of investigations when the media spotlight is taken away from such incidents,” Mr Owaisi told The Hindu.

“Unless there are measures that call public servants to account under the law, the sincerity of the investigation will be contingent on public uproar, popular demand and political expediency.”

Provisions such as the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of mob violence, with judges for the same being appointed by a collegium of the five senior-most judges of the High Court are in the Bill. The Special Courts shall also have the additional responsibility of receiving complaints of mob violence, and has the responsibility of setting up Special Investigation Teams (SIT) and appointing a public prosecutor. The SIT and public prosecutor, besides reporting to the Special Court, shall also be under the supervision of the Supreme Court (via the appointment of an amicus curiae).

The pathology of lynching

Punishment of up to life imprisonment for those found guilty of engaging in mob violence, and special compensation and witness protection are also included in the Bill.

The most significant portion of the Bill is, however, the awarding of penalties on public servants for failing to investigate properly due to malafide intentions or wilful neglect of their duties.

Mob violence has been defined to include “any act where two or more persons injure, harm, oppress, threaten any person’s enjoyment of a right guaranteed under the Constitution of India or on the basis of their identity.”

Recent incidents of lynching related to cow vigilantism, in Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, have led to demands in various quarters for a law to deal with such incidents. The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday too debated the issue in the House. An MP unrelated to the executive can move a private members Bill by sending notice of it a month in advance to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Mr Owaisi sent off the notice on July 6th.

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