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Antidote to mobocracy

Antidote to mobocracy

Most people devoid of the unnecessary blinkers of religion and immediate community would agree that mob outrage at the slightest provocation is not just a menace but threatens to fast become a social evil if not checked in time. Acknowledging that there is a need for civil society to come together to counter this notorious phenomenon, the West Bengal government has exemplarily made lynching a punishable offence. There is no doubt that legislation is the very first step to curb this increasing menace; putting a law in place by way of presenting a deterrent sends out a message for accountability for one's acts, but to establish a strong deterrent like death penalty for aparently randomly provoked acts of mob lynching is a loud and clear announcement for accountability and consequences of one's doings. The West Bengal Assembly on Friday decided to inflict life imprisonment on those injuring a person and capital punishment for causing death in a lynching incident. The state passed by voice vote for the Bill to punish lynching with death sentence after a series of lynching cases were reported in Kolkata and other districts in the past months and rumours of child-lifters were rife in different areas, particularly in North Bengal. With this, West Bengal is now the second state in the country after Rajasthan to have passed an anti-lynching Bill. Akin to the Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019, the draft The West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, proposed life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 lakh as the maximum punishment for someone whose act is found to cause death of a person. However, capital punishment for causing death was inserted in the Bill that was tabled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Assembly on Friday. The Bill now carries punishment of jail term of three years to life imprisonment in cases of assault leading to injury, besides fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh, and in case of death, the convicts can be punished with death sentence or rigorous life imprisonment and fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the state government had to introduce the Bill because the Centre had not formulated a law against lynchings. "Lynching is a social evil and all of us have to come together to fight against it," she said while tabling the draft law in the House. "The Supreme Court has given direction to take action against lynching. We need to raise awareness against the incident of lynchings." With Friday's move in the West Bengal Assembly comes an emphatic message with. The Mamata Banerjee government has taken a firm step in the right direction to set an example about the manner of checking such a crime with an iron fist. Rajasthan was the first state on record to come up with such a Bill but it is the Bengal government that has gone a step further and brought in the provision of capital punishment in case of death, considerably altering the character of the Bill and making it ever more stringent. West Bengal's message of zero-tolerance against lynching is an example for the entire nation to emulate. The Bill garnered support of the Opposition parties Congress and CPM but BJP neither supported nor opposed it in the House, but outside the House, there was some disagreement regarding the bill. Anyhow, it was in the House that the disagreeing party's opinion counted and the result is for all of India to be thankful for. The Leader of Opposition, Abdul Mannan of the Congress party, who supported the Bill, said, "We hope it will not be misused." There happen to be two crucial discussion-worthy factors in West Bengal Assembly's Friday decision: A stringent deterrent law against lynching, and death penalty as a deterrent. There are numerous other crimes that have been on the rise and there has been a widespread demand for capital punishment for those; crimes against women and especially children have outraged public on a much greater and a collective scale. Rape of children and of women have been happening with impunity have been crying out for such a deterrent law. Lynch mobs were emboldened due to lack of any deterring force. Once this law gets acting, we could expect this necessary provision to be a stepping stone for order in other directions.

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