Assembly passes Bill to crack down on incidents of lynching

Kolkata: Bringing forth a firm hand to check incidents of mob attack and criminalise such actions through stringent punishment for those involved in lynching, the state Assembly on Friday passed the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill 2019. The Bill proposes a maximum punishment of death sentence or rigorous imprisonment for life and fine ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for the perpetrator if lynching leads to the victim's death.

"We are preparing the detailed compensation scheme, wherein the family of the victim will receive compensation and might also get a job. Lynching is a social evil and the Supreme Court has directed to take action against the same. The Central government has not introduced any anti-lynching legislation, so we are bringing this law in our state to fight against it. We should come together to fight against this evil," said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while speaking in support of the Bill in the Assembly.

The Bill was supported by Congress and CPI(M), while BJP neither supported nor opposed the Bill as it felt that the legislation may be used for settling political scores.

Banerjee asserted that Rajasthan had faced problem in passing the anti-lynching legislation as they had not taken the Governor's nod. "In our case, we took prior permission from Governor before placing the Bill," she added.

"Bengal has shown the way. I am hopeful that the other states will also follow suit. I will appeal to the Centre and all the other states to bring a similar Bill into effect," Banerjee said during her deliberation.

According to the Bill, if an act leads to the victim "suffering hurt", the perpetrator would be sent to jail for a maximum of three years and slapped with a fine of Rs 1 lakh. If the victim suffers "grievous hurt", the punishment would be life imprisonment or imprisonment up to 10 years, while the fine would range between Rs 25,000 to Rs 3 lakh.

Apart from this, any person involved in a conspiracy to lynch another person or one who abets an act of lynching, shall be "punished in the same manner as if he had himself committed lynching".

The Bill aims "to provide for effective protection of the constitutional rights of vulnerable persons, to prevent lynching and to punish acts of lynching in the state".

"If a person is awarded a quantum of punishment in the lower court, then the former can seek relief only at the High Court," Banerjee said, stressing upon awareness and wide publicity regarding the Bill.

In an attempt to stop any kind of mob-violence leading to lynching, the Bill directs the officer-in-charge of police stations to take all reasonable steps to prevent any such incident. According to the Bill, the state Director General of Police will appoint a coordinator, not below the level of Inspector General (IG) and in case of Kolkata, the Police Commissioner will appoint a nodal officer, not below the level of Additional Commissioner of Police, who will monitor and take measures to prevent incidents of lynching in the state and Kolkata respectively.

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