What TN’s anti-NEET and Jharkhand’s anti-lynching Bills have in common

What TN’s anti-NEET and Jharkhand’s anti-lynching Bills have in common

Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais last week returned the draft of the Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021, passed by the Assembly in December 2021, to the government with suggestions. In doing so, he became the second BJP-appointed governor in recent months to return for reconsideration a Bill drawn up by a non-BJP government and passed by the Assembly.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed the Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021, last September. The Bill attempts to bypass the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical students in the state, instead allowing admissions to be made based on marks obtained in Class XII, or Plus Two.

However, after keeping the Bill for 142 days, Governor RN Ravi returned it to the Assembly for reconsideration. The Assembly then passed the Bill a second time and sent it again to the Governor on February 8, 2022. Last week, Ravi assured Chief Minister MK Stalin that the Bill would be forwarded to the Union government for presidential assent.

However, there are still fears the Bill will not get the President’s approval, since it overrides a central law – specifically Section 10D of the Centre’s Indian Medical Council Act.

The returned Jharkhand draft Bill

In the case of Jharkhand’s anti-lynching Bill, Governor Bais made a couple of suggestions – as he is entitled to do – including reconsidering the definition of “mob”, which was “not in consonance with the well-defined legal lexicon or glossary”.

In its original form, the legislation has provision for jail terms ranging from three years to life imprisonment and fines of up to ₹25 lakh against those involved in mob lynching leading to “injury or death”.

The Bill also provides for punishment for “conspiracy or abetment or attempt to lynch”; “obstructing legal process”; “dissemination of offensive material” and “enforcing a hostile environment”, besides compensation for the victims as per the “compensation scheme” of the state government.

The Bill was, however, opposed by the opposition BJP in its present form, and the party demanded a review by a select committee.

Members of certain tribal communities under the banner of ‘Janjati Suraksha Manch’ were also against the Bill. They met the Governor in February, requesting him not to give his nod. The delegation argued that the Bill would undermine the special provisions in place for the tribal communities provided by the Centre and state governments.

Two major recommendations

A recent report quoted two government officials as saying that the Governor had two major recommendations.

Media reports quoted an official as saying that there is a mismatch between the Hindi and English versions of the Bill. In the English verision, Sub-clause XII in Subsection 1 of Section 2 deals with a ‘witness protection scheme’. In the Hindi version, this is missing. The official spoke of the need to rectify the two versions to ensure symmetry.

Secondly, said the official, the definition of ‘mob’ as given in Section 2(VI) of the Bill has to be reconsidered. A group of two or more individuals cannot be called a ‘tumultuous’ crowd, the official pointed out, adding that a mob is a ‘large, angry and disorderly crowd of people who are often uncontrollable or violent’. The state government, therefore, needs to revisit the definition of ‘mob’.

It is not yet clear if the state government will consider the suggestions and bring the amendments in the ongoing Budget Session of the Assembly.

Last week, replying to a query by the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) legislator Binod Singh in the Assembly, state minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Alamgir Alam, said the government is planning to set up fast-track courts for speedy trial of mob-lynching cases.

The minister told the House that 46 cases of mob-lynching had been recorded in Jharkhand between 2016 and 2021. In 11 cases, 51 accused were convicted to life imprisonment after completion of the trial, he said.

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