A view has emerged that provisions could be included in various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act to cover lynching as an “aggravated form” of offence to provide for harsher punishment, top sources told ET.
The ministry appears to be opposed to the idea of a new law because it believes that would lead to “multiplicity of laws, ambiguity” and “practical difficulties in implementation”. A provision to define “lynching” as an offence under the IPC is also being looked at.
The Sections of IPC which are likely to require adjustments for this are: 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (punishment for voluntary causing hurt), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention).
The offence of lynching can be added by way of sub-clauses in these sections providing for suitable punishment, the sources said.
Besides IPC, adjustments will also be needed in Section 223 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This section deals with people charged together for committing the same offence in the course of the same transaction such as theft, extortion, cheating and criminal misappropriation.
Section 114 of the Evidence Act — it deals with presumption of existence of certain facts — will also need to be amended. Internal discussions underlined the “practical difficulties” in bringing in a separate legislation on lynching.
“Past and recent experiences have shown that a multitude of laws only confuses the cause than aid the aggrieved. The Indian Penal Code is available to deal with all kinds of offence done against a human. If suitably amended, the existing laws can itself provide for harsher punishment to those involved in lynching,” said a senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Punishment for every crime committed under the guise of lynching is already available under the IPC. It is just that the nomenclature, among other things, needs to be rejigged,” this official added.
It is learnt that law ministry officials verbally conveyed their opinion to the home ministry. A final decision will be made by the ministry only after consulting minister for law and justice Ravi Shankar Prasad.
To ensure that offences such as mob lynching are dealt with on a priority basis, the ministry is of the opinion that amendments can be introduced in the existing laws to ensure that cognisance, committal and trial are expedited, preferably within a year.
A high-level meeting is likely to take place later this week to discuss the matter. Pursuant to Supreme Court directions, the central government had constituted two panels — a GoM headed by home minister Rajnath Singh and another chaired by home secretary Rajiv Gauba — to address the issue. The GoM will submit its report to the PM.