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A law against lynching is an idea whose time has come

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02.09.2019

In an ideal world, there should be no special laws. Murder is murder, rape is rape, theft is theft, and all such acts are covered under the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. And yet, we have a plethora of special laws, such as those against terrorism, human trafficking, dowry deaths, domestic violence against women, discrimination and violence against Dalits and tribals, and child rape.

Why? Why should there be a greater punishment for raping a girl child than an adult woman? Why should bail be more difficult in a crime motivated by caste hatred against Dalits, than say a crime of passion? Why should the law be more stringent for a man beating his wife than say for the same man beating his friend?

There are societal conditions under which the law needs to be especially stringent, both in terms of punishment and the prosecution process. Immediate arrest, difficulty in getting bail, rules ensuring greater responsibility on the part of the police and the prosecution, fast-track courts, immediate compensation to victims are some of the measures often found in special laws.

And what are these special conditions that need special laws? They are, simply, about vulnerability. The Indian Penal Code has been amended to provide for stringent punishment against domestic violence because housewives are among the most vulnerable. Dalits often face gruesome violence just because they are Dalits. The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act makes the police, the administration and the judicial system more sensitive towards this category of crime because getting justice for this category of victims is extremely difficult. Apart from punishment, the law also focuses on prevention, as the name suggests.

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