The West Bengal Assembly passed an anti-lynching bill on Friday, PTI reported. The legislation was introduced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and supported by the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party neither supported nor opposed the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, as it felt that the legislation might be used for settling political scores.

Mamata Banerjee said the state government introduced the bill as the Centre had not formulated a law against lynchings. “Lynching is a social evil and all of us have to come together to fight against it,” she said while tabling the draft law in the House. “The Supreme Court has given direction to take action against lynching. We need to raise awareness against the incident of lynchings.”

The bill proposes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for offences. It defines lynching as any attempt or act of violence by a mob on the “grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity, or any other ground”.

The legislation prescribes the appointment of a nodal officer for periodic assessment of local intelligence inputs on potential flashpoints, and mandates that lynching incidents be investigated by an officer not below the rank of an inspector. It also calls for witness protection and compensation for victims, adding that any allegation of threat, coercion or inducement of witnesses must be brought to the notice of a court within 24 hours.

Those found guilty of assisting or interfering with the accused will be punished with imprisonment of up to three years and fined a maximum Rs 1 lakh. It also proposes a maximum one-year jail term and a fine up to Rs 50,000 for “publishing, communicating or disseminating offensive material by any method – physical or electronic”. Those who create “a hostile environment for a person or a group of persons” face maximum prison term of three years and fine up to Rs 1 lakh.

On August 5, the Rajasthan Assembly had passed a bill with provisions for life imprisonment, and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh for those convicted of mob lynching.

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