Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that the government has set up a committee to change laws to tackle mob lynching cases.

This comes at a time when mob lynchings and hate crimes are on the rise in India. Mob violence in India has been sparked off by communal hate – especially cow protection – as well as social-media fuelled rumours dealing with alleged crimes such as child abductions.

The Centre is working to bring changes in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code, Amit Shah said, according to India Today. “The central government has already written to state governments and Union Territories,” the home minister said. “We have also formed a committee to look into changes required in CrPC and IPC. Once the suggestions come in, we will look into it to make the changes.”

Shah added that the government will keep in mind the Supreme Court’s orders while making these changes.

On July 17, 2018, the Supreme Court had decried cases of lynching and cow vigilantism, and said mobocracy cannot be allowed in society. “No citizen can take law into his hands nor become law unto himself,” the judges had added. It had also proposed a set of preventive, remedial and punitive measures to curb instances of lynching. A year later, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and the states that had not complied with its 2018 judgement.

However, Shah had in October denied that mob lynchings had increased under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and said there was no need for a new law to stop lynchings. Alleging that it was propaganda, Shah denied that the victims of lynching were mostly Muslims or Dalits. “It isn’t as such. You can look at the analysis of previous incidents too,” the BJP president had said. “Such incidents happen to the poor.”

NCRB data on lynching ‘prone to misinterpretation’: Ministry

In a written reply, the Home Ministry explained why it did not include mob lynching cases in the Nation Crime Records Bureau’s “Crime in India Report 2017” released in October. The report was delayed by more than a year, and data relating to lynchings, murder by influential people, murders ordered by khap panchayats and murders committed for religious reason were collected but not released.

The data was collected under “various crime heads which are clearly defined under the Indian Penal Code and special and local laws”, the ministry said. “NCRB for the first time collected data on some new additional parameters or crime heads, including mob lynching, etc. for the year 2017.”

It added: “But it was observed that the data was unreliable and their definitions were prone to misinterpretation. Therefore, NCRB did not consider it appropriate to publish such unreliable data separately.”

Also read:

The Daily Fix: By hiding lynching numbers, the Modi government has politicised crime statistics

Rising crimes

The mob attacks have also gained international attention. In June, an official report prepared by the United States said mob attacks by “violent extremist Hindu groups” against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018. The report, which said some senior officials of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had made inflammatory speeches against minority communities, was rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs. It also said 18 such mob attacks were reported as of November 2018 and eight people were killed during the year.

In July, 49 eminent personalities had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against mob lynchings. In the letter, the individuals said that “Jai Shri Ram” had become a provocative war cry” and the reason for a number of lynchings. A sedition case was filed against these individuals for allegedly tarnishing the image of the country but the government said it had nothing to do with the case. On October 9, the Bihar Police said 9 the case would be closed as it was “maliciously false”.