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Governor Who?:NEED TO REINVENT, 10 September 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 10 September 2019

Governor Who?

NEED TO REINVENT

By Poonam I Kaushish

The more things change the more they remain the same. An adage which resonates in the corridors of power when it come to dispensing the rewards of office. Whereby handpicked trusted loyalists are appointed to key positions, some Ministers, few to Commissions and others as Governors who will do whatever their mai baaps sitting on India’s Raj gaddi want.  

The latest in this rajnitik ring-a-ring-a-roses, the President appointed B.S Koshyari, Bandaru Dattatreya, Kalraj Mishra, Tamilisai Soundararajan and Arif Mohammed Khan as Governors to Maharashtra, Himachal, Rajasthan, Telangana and Kerala. There claim to fame? While four are senior staunch BJP leaders, Khan is an ex-Congress Minister who resigned from Rajiv Gandhi’s Government for overturning the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano and supports the BJP’s criminalisation of triple talaq. The first four are being recognized for their faithfulness, the fifth underscores the Saffron Sangh’s criteria of a “good Muslim”.

Raising a moot point: Are Governors intended to be the Centre’s doormats? Or are they the keepers of the people’s faith as the Constitutional head of their respective States? Are ideologies to be the touchstones for Constitutional matters? Would this not weaken the country’s federal structure? Are there any rules to emphasize some semblance, coherence and uniformity in gubernatorial actions? A charter of directions and guidelines?

Sadly, in a milieu of you scratch my back and I yours, a gubernatorial post is no longer decided on whether a person is a man of stature known for his integrity and objectivity, instead it is the perfect lollypop for political castaways, parting gifts for subservient bureaucrats and convenient posts for inconvenient rivals, totaling over 60% today. His essential criteria:  whether he can be a  chamcha .Consequently, the Governor has become a convenient tool of the Centre specially in Opposition-ruled States where he runs the administration by proxy.

By playing the I-spy game---petty politricking, gross interference, open partisanship---at the Centre’s behest. Sending for files, summoning Ministers and bureaucrats. To hear, entice, provoke and register the voice of dissent against the State Government to their political patrons in Delhi. Bluntly, make life hell for the Chief Minister at every step.     

Call it déjà vu but Modi NDA’s is no different from National Front VP Singh’s 1989, Vajpayee’s 1999 nor UPA’s 2004 who got Governors appointed by their predecessors to resign. Since 2014 all UPA appointed Governors were made to resign. Notwithstanding, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling which decreed a change of Government at the Centre was not a ground to remove Governors, even if they were out of sync with policies and political ideologies of the Party in power.

All seem to have forgotten that a Governor’s true function is not just to represent the Centre as Head of State, but serve his people and fight their battle with the Centre, not vice versa. He has to bear in mind the overall national interest, not partisan party interests and be in tune with his own people, not with the party in power at the Centre.

The Constitution empowers him to influence the decisions of an elected Government by giving him the right “to be consulted, to warn and encourage”. His role is overwhelmingly that of a “friend, philosopher and guide” to his Council of Ministers with unrivalled discretionary powers. A lot more than those of the President.

Pertinently, the Sarkaria Commission had not only endorsed the Supreme Court but also made two weighty recommendations. One, the Governor should be appointed in consultation with the State’s Chief Minister. Two, his five-year tenure should not be disturbed, except in rare circumstances for “extremely compelling reasons”.  Basing it on the premise the Governor is a “Constitutional sentinel and vital link between the Union and State, not a subordinate or subservient agent of the Union Government”.

Tragically, the prism of time has distorted the Governor role whereby successive Central Governments have used, abused and debased this office by reducing Governors to the position of the Centre’s trumpet nee kathputli, ever ready to destablise the State, if desired by New Delhi. Most have no qualms of conscience in rubbishing it in personal or party interest, overlooking the Constitution’s letter and spirit.

Moreover, there is a revolving door between the bipartisan role of a Governor and active politics. Predictably, this has tossed out the ‘safety valve’ envisaged by the Constitution makers of who should be appointed Governors, manner of their appointment and their role. During Constituent Assembly debates leaders hoped that eminent individuals, preferably not those directly involved with politics should be appointed to this ‘exalted’ position.

Clearly, even as the institution continues to be sacrosanct and important, the quality of the incumbents has time and again lowered the institutional prestige. Worse, the gubernatorial office has been unabashedly politicized over the past three decades.

Alas, gone are the days when eminent people with integrity, merit and stature were appointed Governors. Indira Gandhi changed the rules of the game. Politicians close to her were rewarded with plum postings. She successfully used gubernatorial appointments as bait to get bureaucrats to do at her bidding. For the first time, even a former Chief Election Commissioner and retired intelligence and police officers came to occupy Raj Bhawans.

In fact, many of the appointments were so brazen that the Supreme Court was constrained to order in 1979: “The Governor’s office is not subordinate or subservient to the Government of India.  He is not amenable to the directions of the Government of India nor is he accountable to them for the manner in which he carries out his duties. This is an independent Constitutional office which is not subject to the control of the Government of India…”

Trust India’s self-serving polity to trash this to the dustbin of history. Be it the Congress, Janata Dal, United Front, NDA, UPA and NDA2 whereby the Governor largely functions as a lackey of the Centre, ever ready to destabilize the ship of the State.

All political parties lament the decline of the crucial institution of the Governor when out of office. However,  they merrily exploit the office when in power, be it NF, UF, NDA, UPA etc. A classic case of the pot calling the kettle black! Big deal if it generates bad blood between Lilliputian politicians, denigrates the Constitution and undermines India’s unity and integrity.

The harsh truth is that the office of the Governor is in shambles and is no longer playing its key role as envisaged by the founding fathers. It has to be revamped and restored to its old glory as he/she has a distinct role in ensuring the country’s unity and the well-being of the people of his State.

Public office has a lot to do with perception. Thus, it is time to rise above politics, make certain amendments to streamline the position of Governor, improve the quality of incumbents, provide dignity to this august office and appoint neutral non-political Governors and men of eminence who could distance themselves from the eternal battle of Party politics.

As long as the Centre continues to play petty, partisan politics, India and its unity will be greatly hurt. The Prime Minister who postulates the Constitution must also be perceived as practicing what he solemnly preaches. The Governor must not be reduced to the level of a glorified doormat or a who’s who to who? who? ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

New I-T Rules:EFFECTIVE POLICE STATE?, by Shivaji Sarkar, Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 9 September 2019

   New I-T Rules

EFFECTIVE POLICE STATE?

By Shivaji Sarkar

 

The economy is in shackles. Expecting it to thrive is a miracle. Somehow a supposedly rightist, nationalist government is using socialist mores to keep it in chains.

 

Even as India’s Chandrayan lands on moon to create history, it is surprising that economy is yet to take the high strand. The foremost condition for a thriving system is allowing it to flow. It is unfortunately not happening. The suggestions coming from officials are creating road block.

 

The economy is ailing. Slowdown in a situation like this is natural. Presently, the growth has come down to 5 per cent. If it is not allowed to blossom it can fall critically. The share market normally is not a reflection of the economy. The continuous fall in the stock index, however, is an indication of the fall in investment by the FPIs as well as domestic investors. The FPIs have withdrawn Rs 23,000 crore from the market in less than two months.

 

These are withdrawing for policy flip-flops. Nobody is realizing why taxes are being imposed on their earnings and again why the Finance Minister is withdrawing her own budget proposals.

 

Nobody explains why draconian Motor Vehicle Act that collects about Rs 1.5 crore in penalties in Haryana and Odisha alone in five days is enacted to empower the gendarmes. It causes law and order chaos and stymies free movement.

 

Real estate sector is gasping, banking sector is unstable, industry is in a tizzy, auto sector is preparing for a continuous fall in demand, FMCG sector is forced to cut prices owing to vanishing buyers and a member of the Prime Ministers Economic Advisory Committee Rathin Roy says that the country is in a recession.

 

Niti Ayog Chairman Rajiv Kumar is more candid. He says India is facing an economic downturn for the first time in 70 years, a liquidity crisis, wherein lenders have stopped funding businesses, resulting in a situation where they have to survive on cash. It’s a grim warning.

 

Do we have a solution? It is worse than the disease. The Union Budget 2019 has several tax-related amendments and new rules that further tighten the shackles. Whether you are buying life insurance, property or making banking transactions, the new rules that are effective from September 1, will have impact on income and taxes.

 

In short, it means every spender would have to be alert more on maintaining accounts of expenditure than engaging themselves on earnings or spending.

 

The five new commandments of the income tax department would put effective brake on productive activities. It is also likely to affect the culture of savings. It has put such a leash that everyone would prefer not to spend. That is wiser for most earners than getting into tormenting net of the tax authorities.

 

The wise men in the government possibly have not visualised that their rules for checking people’s pattern of purchases would effectively throw a spanner. So there are five new rules – TDS on life insurance policy, engaging a professional, even a mason, would need deduction of TDS, have to pay TDS at the time of purchase of immovable property, pay TDS on cash withdrawal and banks would keep a continuous watch and report the smallest transactions.

 

Yes, it is an effective police state. One of the first kingdoms that ensured a police state in this country was of Alauddin Khilji. It tightened the administration to keep every individual on check. The government needs to learn from him. Khilji ensured for the sake of his administration, the economy collapsed. India took a hundred years to come out of the morass.

 

The TDS itself is syndrome of uncertainty that a government suffers. It shows that the system has no faith in the people. So even before he can earn, the government extorts its share. Its rationale is never explained.

 

Why tax a life policy? The State needs to promote it for two reasons – providing a sense of security to the people, increasing savings and help boost the economy. Instead a tax on it, sours the mood. It hits insurance sale, savings and ultimately the government itself would be a loser. Intelligent move would have been to allow free sale, raise savings for welfare programmes and earn taxes by boosting the economic activity. The rule would ensure the opposite.

 

The officials possibly believe that whether there is activity or not tax realisation must improve. Good. But the real impact would be diminution of activities. At least the rule on TDS on purchase of immovable property would ensure it. The real estate is in trouble. If it is allowed sale with strings, there would be reduced buyers. Most genuine buyers do not have enough money to buy. So if TDS is levied, persons short of funds would prefer to skip a deal.

 

One would be paying TDS on club membership, car parking fee, electricity and water facility fees, maintenance fee, advance fee which are incidental to the transfer of a property. It raises price of a property in an inflationary market.

 

The fad for less cash has led to imposition of 2 per cent TDS on cash payments of above Rs 1 crore – effective denudation of Rs 2 lakh from one’s account. The subsequent questioning can lead to many heart breaks and depression. This is preposterous. As a nation do we want to stop spending by instilling fear in the citizenry? The obvious would be further thaw in the market and economy. Sooner such wise steps are done away with is the better.

 

The last rule virtually chains citizens. Already the rules demand statement of financial statement (SFT) above Rs 50,000 of transactions in a year. Now the banks have been ordained to report even the smallest transactions. The big brother watches continuously and extorts possibly even what you are not supposed to pay or pay in advance and get into rigmarole of arguments and litigation. It’s a beautiful police state.

 

Unless these wise gems of rules are removed by the BJP that had propagated liberalization since 1960s, the economy is headed for a doom. Let the people spend freely and contribute to the economy. 

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to intervene to ensure the economy flows freely for the nation to thrive. Quixotic rules must be buried deep. The nation can reach the moon. The economy has also to zip through. It’s possible only if such rules are never formulated.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Karnataka Catch:‘VENDETTA POLITICS’ ECHOS, By Insaf, 7 September 2019 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 7 September 2019

Karnataka Catch

‘VENDETTA POLITICS’ ECHOS

By Insaf

 

Karnataka Congress, till recently in power, is seething with anger. ‘Political vendetta’ by brute BJP simply doesn’t seem to abate. The latest arrest by the ED is of its former minister and trouble shooter D K Shivakumar over alleged money laundering. Expectedly, the Congress needs to rally behind him. Not only because in the recent political crisis of losing the coalition government in the State did Shivakumar try to woo coalition dissidents and bring them back into the party fold, but the targeting comes on the heels of the ED’s arrest of its tall national leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram. The protest in Karnataka by way of a bandh call did manage some success. Protestors went on a rampage in the leader’s Kanakapura constituency and few other parts of the State –staging dharnas, pelting stones, damaging several buses, blocking movement on Bengaluru–Mysuru highway leading to its closure etc. Schools and colleges were shut down on Wednesday last across Ramanagara district, as a precautionary step. The common refrain in the southern State and 10 Janpath being New Delhi was using government agencies to target Opposition leaders.  The oft-heard charge of ‘vendetta politics” reverberates again. Will it get louder with more “revengeful” arrests? Time, no days will tell. 

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

Hope-less Kashmir   

The word ‘normalcy’ continues to dodge Kashmir. And thus three different groups of panchayat members, representatives of J&K fruit growers and those displaced from PoK met Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday last to share their concerns. Given the nagging uncertainty, North Block did best what it does – give number of assurances. These included, restoration of mobile and internet connectivity in another 15-20 days; every panch/sarpanch (village head) vulnerable to terrorists’ threats to get police security and Rs 2 lakh insurance coverage each; their  honorarium in the Valley to be raised; nobody’s land would be taken away; government land to be used for setting up industries, hospitals, educational institutions; recruitment for various government jobs to start at the earliest with at least five jobs to go to youths from each village on basis of merit; those relocated from PoK to be considered for inclusion in scheme under which displaced families registered in J&K are given financial assistance, etc. A long list alright, but with a month gone by and the Valley remaining under siege, both sides would do well to remember the idiom: if wishes were horses then beggars would ride!  

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

Assam’s NRC Conundrum

Assam’s NRC Coordinator has ended up with more than what he bargained for. Not only is Prateek Hajela on the firing line of the BJP and Congress for keeping out many Bengali Hindus, but he now has to deal with two FIRs lodged against him. The final list leaves a whopping over 19 lakh people, which is around 6% of the State’s entire population, and come to think of it, twice of Nagaland’s population! While the left-out need to appeal before the foreigners’ tribunals, the ruling BJP plans to knock again on Supreme Court’s door for re-verification process in two districts on a pilot basis to address the blunder. Till then, the Coordinator needs to deal with the FIRs accusing him of “deliberately” excluding indigenous people. One has been filed Asom Garia-Maria Yuba Chhatra Parishad and the other by a member of the All India Legal Aid Foundation. They charge the process of being “full of anomalies” such as three members of a family in and two out or one son in and another out despite using the same legacy data, or armed forces personnel excluded, etc. Unmistakably absurd! Relief, how and when is the big question.

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

Arunachal Bridge Bogey?

Ruling BJP in Arunachal Pradesh should have South Block fretting. Its MP and State party President Tapir Gao insists Chinese soldiers had built a “wooden bridge nearly 75 km inside Indian territory”. The Army rubbishes it with “no such incursion.” Gao’s claim is based on a local villager, who had sighted the bridge when he went to the woods to fish/hunt and sent him a video. As the area’s representative, Gao says he can’t hide it and even spells out the location of the bridge. Incursion, he adds is a regular phenomenon” and ‘PLA troops had entered in other areas, too!” On the other hand, Army explains: the area referred to is called “Fish Tail”; there is a differing perception of LoC alignment, as in many other areas; patrolling is from either side; civilian hunters/herb collectors also frequent there during summer months; there is no permanent presence of either Chinese soldiers or civilians there and surveillance is maintained by our troops. The MP counters insisting there are no nearby villages and local villagers know who has built bridges. Whom to believe and will South Block step in to bridge the gap?

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

Rajasthan HRC Bizarre Order

The Rajasthan Human Rights Commission needs to get real. It advices governments to prohibit women from opting for live-in relationships! Reason: such women need protection through a law as they could be treated as “concubines”. The two-member bench order on Wednesday last, said governments’ duty is to protect women from “harms of live-in relationship,” as “keeping a woman as a concubine is against her dignity because this word is tantamount to character assassination.” Plus, “life as a concubine is not right to life and such a woman cannot protect her fundamental rights.” It suggested awareness campaigns against such relationships, and even spelt out specifics for a law for cohabiting: “eligibility of partners; how such relationships will be known to people at-large; procedure of registration; and how these relationships can be ended after a mandatory counseling,” It forgets, last year the Supreme Court approved adult couples’ right to live-in and such relationships were recognised by Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Will State Chief Secretary (Home) adhere to the order? It would be best to bury it under files or consider the dustbin. 

*                                               *                                               *                                               *

Not Fine, Sir

Traffic police is having a field day across the country. With the new Motor Vehicles Act in place since September 1, hefty challans (fines) are being imposed, raising questions about the justification of the penalty. A few examples: A scooty driver fined Rs 16,000 in Haryana’s Kaithal district for having ‘no documents’ and his scooty impounded; a two-wheeler in Gurugram fined Rs 23,000 for ‘not wearing a helmet and no Registration Certificate’, an auto-rickshaw driver in Bhubaneswar fined Rs 47,500 for different violations--driving under influence of liquor, had no valid driving licence, registration certification, permit, pollution under control certificate and insurance. How would they pay up such hefty fines? The Odiya auto driver provides an answer: “I can’t pay such huge penalty, let them seize my vehicle (bought for Rs 25,000 a week ago) or send me to jail.” A re-think is critical as there is bound to be over-crowding -- of impounded vehicles, in courts and even jails. It can’t be fine, even if it is to instill road discipline. Union Transport Minister Gadkari must see the signal. --- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Southern Governors: BJP’s CALCULATED GAMBLE,By Sagarneel Sinha, 6 September 2019 Print E-mail

Spotlight

New Delhi, 6 September 2019

Southern Governors

BJP’s CALCULATED GAMBLE

By Sagarneel Sinha

                    

Notwithstanding winning a bigger mandate this General election, southern India, barring Karnataka, continues to remain elusive for the BJP. Hence, the recent appointments of Governors may well be a roadmap to a future strategy. It’s a fact that conquering south India has always been a tough challenge for the saffron party. The BJP failed to win any seat from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala but managed a few in Telangana. In particular, it was Kerala where the saffron party banking on the Sabarimala issue was hoping to open its account this time.

 

In spite of being dejected by these results in the south, BJP didn’t lose time and instead zeroed in to gain foothold there. This can be gauged from the Modi government’s recent two governors’ appointments of five, where Arif Mohammad Khan, a minister in the then Rajiv Gandhi dispensation, was appointed in Kerala and BJP Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundarajan was installed in Telangana. These appointments assume political significance with the saffron party already working on the ground to increase its base in the elusive States through national membership drive.

 

Khan, who resigned from Rajiv Gandhi's ministry protesting against the then dispensation's move to alter the Supreme Court’s order on Shah Bano, is viewed as a progressive Muslim — known for his resistance against the Islamic orthodoxy. He has been a prominent supporter of the Modi government’s move to criminalise the instant Triple Talaq, even backing the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Not only this, Khan himself has dismissed several times the narrative of “Muslims being in danger under the present Modi regime” and has asserted that the alienation among the Muslims began in 1986, not in 2014. So, given Khan’s views, it is a calculated move to send him to Kerala, a State where Muslim population hovers around 27%, making it as one of the highest Muslim populous States in the country.

 

The Modi government, which has been facing criticism allegedly for being offensive against the religious minorities, particularly Muslims, since assuming power, is trying to kill two birds at a time. Firstly, by nominating Khan, the BJP dispensation is trying to send the message nationally that its policies are not against the minorities as propagated by the Opposition and by a section of the leftist intellectuals. Interestingly, Khan is the second Muslim governor to be appointed by the present regime after Najma Hepatulla, in Manipur.

 

Secondly, Khan’s appointment in Kerala, with a significant minority population of both Muslims and Christains, assumes much significance given the fact that the State has always been a dry place for the lotus to bloom. Importantly, Khan, a seasoned politician, replaced outgoing governor P Sathasivam, a former Chief Justice of India. This decision was to boost the BJP’s camp in Kerala, which itself is divided into factions and demoralised after failing to win any seat in the recent polls, although the party saw an increase of 2 per cent votes by securing 12.9 per cent votes.

 

Actually, Kerala’s demography has made it difficult for the BJP to gain a foothold in the southern-most Stare. It so happens, the Hindu population, on which the party banks is around 54 per cent and entirely polarising them is almost impossible given their political leanings between the two dominant fronts – the CPM-led LDF and Congress-led UDF. This was evident in these polls, where the large chunk of the Hindu votes, divided by the Sabarimala controversy that BJP was expecting, went into the Congress’ kitty, ultimately helping the party-led United Democratic Front to register almost a clean sweep by winning 19 out of 20 seats. Also, the Front benefitted due to the consolidation of the minority votes in the wake of BJP's interest to penetrate into the State.

 

The results clearly pointed out that BJP has to change its strategy, if it has to emerge as a strong power in the State’s politics. And it is perhaps the main reason the party has appointed a progressive Muslim leader like Khan as the Governor. However, that simply doesn’t mean it is doing so only to attract the Muslim vote bank, which has been the backbone of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest constituent of the Congress-led UDF. The saffron brigade knows that it is not easy to gain Muslim votes when there is a party like IUML, except getting some votes from the Muslim women community in light of passage of the Triple Talaq bill.

 

Actually, by appointing Khan, who refuses the narrative that the minorities are in danger under the Modi regime, BJP is seeking to gain the Christian community, which accounts for around 17 per cent. Remember, the Christians mainly support the Kerala Congress, the State’s regional party, known also for constant breaks and unifications, and presently there are many existing fractions. The largest faction is the Kerala Congress (Mani) — a part of the UDF. Already, two small factions -- Kerala Congress (Thomas) and Kerala Janapaksham (Secular) led by six-time MLA P.C. George, are with the NDA.

 

The State’s Christians, a large section being the Syrian Christians, generally, as the BJP believes, are not “so against the Modi government, as they are more concerned with the rising Islamic fundamentalism in the world”. So, the saffron party has earlier too tried to woo the Kerala Congress (Mani), which presently is again divided into two camps, following its iconic leader KM Mani’s death this year. It just may be that the BJP is trying to woo one of the two camps of KC(M) to get into NDA’s basket and Khan may just be their face to suggest it is not against minorities.

 

On the other hand, by appointing its Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundarajan as Telangana governor, the BJP has eyed two political goals. Firstly, by assigning the high post to its party face, BJP has tried to assure the people of Tamil Nadu, where the party failed to win any seat that it highly respects their culture. Secondly, it is also a signal to the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao that coming days wouldn’t be easy for him. More so as Soundarajan is known to be a vocal politician, who doesn’t mind courting controversies to propagate the party’s ideology.

 

Her appointment is mainly aimed to further boost its cadres in Telangana, where the BJP did surprise many by winning four Lok Sabha seats and is now looking to replace the Congress, already hit by desertions as the main Opposition party there. Be that as it may, it is worth keeping a close watch on the two Governors’ functioning as these will be reflect how close the BJP is successful in its goal.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Anti-Lynching Law: AN UNNECESSARY ADDITION?, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 5 September 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 5 September 2019  

Anti-Lynching Law

AN UNNECESSARY ADDITION?

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

The Government of West Bengal has passed the Prevention of Lynching Bill in the Legislative Assembly making mob violence and lynching an offence punishable with imprisonment ranging from three years to life term for causing injuries to a person and death penalty for causing death. The bill also proposes that conspiracy and abetment in an act of lynching is also punishable as the act itself.  Mob violence “on grounds of sexual orientation” including attacks on gender and sexual minorities is also covered as lynching.

 

In the event of victim’s death, the perpetrators can be punished with death sentence or rigorous imprisonment and a fine up to Rs. 5 lakh. For publishing, communicating or disseminating offensive material by any method, jail term for one year and a fine of Rs.50,000 are prescribed. The bill has provisions to protect witnesses and to compensate the victims.

 

The bill, whether a normal reaction of a government to control increasing incidents of mob attacks on persons causing death or part of party politics in West Bengal, deserves attention.  Rumours of cattle theft and child lifting spread fast these days thanks to social media and believed without verification and incite violent reaction. Lynching is indeed a “social menace” as described by West Bengal CM and there can be no opposition to suppress it with a firm hand. However, opinions may differ on the efficacy of a new anti-lynching law.

 

Section 153 A of the IPC deals with the crime of a group or mob violence, similar to lynching.  Promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of social harmony by words, signs, or visible representations are crimes under this section punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both. In case the crime is committed in a place of worship, the punishment may go up to 5 years imprisonment and/or fine. Organising and training groups for violence are offences.

   

But, the National Crime Records Bureau does not maintain data on lynching incidents in the country as these are counted as murder. The incidents grow in number, but punishments are rare.

A gruesome lynching incident by cow vigilantes ended in acquittal of the accused in Rajasthan.  Severe beating leading to the death of a cattle trader and milk vendor, Pehlu Khan, in Behror town in Rajasthan on his return from a cattle fair with two cows and their calves on 1 April 2017 has shocked the entire country. Mob attack was instigated on the suspicion that the cows were purchased for slaughter.

 

The Alwar Sessions Court acquitted six men charged with Pehlu’s lynching giving them the benefit of doubt. The Rajasthan CM announced constitution of a special investigation team to re-investigate the matter. It is to examine whether there was any tampering of evidence or attempt to weaken the case or any lacunae in the investigation and fix responsibility for the prosecution’s failure to produce clinching evidence in the court.

 

In December last, the Manipur Assembly passed a bill recommending life imprisonment for those involved in mob violence resulting in the death of a person. In August 2019, Rajasthan Assembly passed a similar bill making lynching a non-bailable offence punishable with life imprisonment and a fine up to Rs. 5 lakh.

 

As incidents of lynching increased, the Supreme Court issued detailed instructions to Central and State governments in July 2017 to put in place “preventive, remedial, and punitive measures”   for curbing what the court described as “horrendous acts of mobocracy”. These included stopping irresponsible and explosive messages and video which may incite mob violence, setting up fast track courts in every district for speedy trial of offenders and providing maximum punishment. The court was for declaring lynching as a separate offence and prescribing punishment.

 

These directions have been ignored.  And lynching cases have been growing. Cow vigilantes are often accused with and without evidence. Government order prohibiting slaughtering of cows and buffaloes in public places as per existing rules which is also universally common has been misunderstood and propagated in some places as ban on beef eating and intrusion in food habits.

 

In response to the notice received from the Supreme Court to Central and State governments and NHRC to implement its judgement laying down measures to combat lynching, the Empowered Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted in 2018, under Union Home Minister has resumed its  function.

 

Lynching is a term used to denote a premeditated extra-judicial killing of a person by a group.  Conducted openly in public places, it is intended to punish a person and intimidate a group of persons for actions disapproved by the group of perpetrators. It is an informal tool of social control displayed as a public spectacle by a group of people taking law in their hands and inflicting punishment also. The victims belong to a particular group or believe in and practice particular ideologies. Lynching is known in all societies and is still in practice though it looks like a barbarian practice.

 

The usage of the word “lynching” is linked with the American Revolution. Lynch Law was a term used to denote punishment without trial. Lynching incidents became common in the US during and after the Civil War. African-Americans were victims of lynching in the Reconstruction Era.  Anti-Lynching bill was introduced by L.C. Dyer in the US Congress in 1918 and was passed by the House of Representatives in 1922, but blocked in the Senate.  Subsequent efforts also failed until 2018 when the Senate unanimously passed the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act which is to be passed by the House of Representatives   and signed by the President to become law.

 

One cannot help mentioning Mark Twain in this connection, who perceived the danger of America turning into “The United States of Lyncherdom”.  His essay under this title was with reference to mass lynching incidents in Pierce city in Missouri in 1901.

 

Latin American countries, particularly Brazil, are notorious for lynching known as “justicia popular”, but there is no reliable statistics. Lynching is common where crime rates are high. In Nigeria, lynching is referred to as “jungle justice”. In South Africa, it is part of racism. In the era of apartheid, whipping of offenders and opponents was common in the 1980s. Prosecutions are found difficult and few cases get resolved through courts.

 

There is a view that the principal reason for large-scale lynching is the failure of authorities to deliver justice resulting in loss of public faith in the police. Native justice system is still popular in some States to deal with minor crimes.  

 

This crime of murder in brutal manner is invariably associated with group prejudices, ethnic enmities, and religious intolerance. It is basically a law and order problem. Suitable penal provisions in relation to the severity of execution of the offence and effective justice system must be available.

 

The efficacy of a new and special law is doubtful to deal with people, who do not hesitate to violate or enforce law and justice directly. It is an unnecessary addition that cannot work wonders, where trust in law and justice and cordial social relationships are missing.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

     

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