For four months the government has been silent on the Bill: Naqvi

The United Progressive Alliance government has not delivered on its promise of bringing in legislation against communal violence. After initial talks, the Centre has fallen silent on the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill which needs speedy tabling, a panel comprising drafters of the legislation said at a meeting here on Friday.

“Not just the leadership, but the executive too have failed to give equal justice under the existing law and this failure has gone unchecked,” National Advisory Council (NAC) member Harsh Mander said.

On the argument about biased approaches toward the accused along communal lines, Mr. Mander cited the instance of the recently released accused of the Malegaon 2006 blast case.

In this case and several others before it, “as long as the accused were Muslims, flimsy allegations, rumours were enough to keep them in jail. But when the accused is from the Hindu faith you need the highest standard of investigation and proof,” he said.

Another NAC member Farah Naqvi said: “Today the ball is firmly in the government's court. For four months the government has been silent. We waited for a democratic dialogue to take place to address the concerns. If the UPA is sincere, they should do it now.”

Former Judge Hosed Suresh questioned the delay to bring in the law. “Are we to go on a fast? People know what happened in this country. We have enough laws, but what happened with them? We need a new law to care for those who have been targeted. The government should not hesitate to table the Bill in the Parliament.”

“We are still debating this [bill] when it should have been a law by now.”

Mr. Suresh said fears that the law would not be able to stand Constitutional scrutiny were needless. “We have defined women and scheduled castes and tribes in the Constitution. I find no justification that it will not stand Constitutional scrutiny,” he said.

Official complicity

Mr. Mander said when the Constitution was framed, the “expectation” was that “the State and the police would stand by the victims, be fair and defend the Constitution and the citizens without any partisanship, prejudice, discussion or hatred.” This vision was far removed from the reality.

Official complicity in a crime was a crime “of a different nature,” Mr. Mander said. The Bill made officials “criminally accountable” for dereliction of duty.

“While our criminal justice system was structured around the rights of the accused, while the State's responsibility was to protect the victims. But what happens when the State is on the side of the accused? Then there is systematic subversion of justice,” Mr. Mander said, pointing to a large number of cases in the Mumbai riots and Gujarat being summarily closed.

Sexual assault

Ms. Naqvi said the Bill encompassed forms of brutal sexual assault on the bodies of women, which had no definition in the existing Indian Penal Code laws related to women.

“This law creates new sexual offences. The kind not recognised in the existing laws. If a woman's body has been mutilated [in the private parts] she cannot prove it's rape. This law defines sexual assault for the first time. We want the government to put these definitions in the current laws,” Ms. Naqvi said.

She sought to dispel the notions that communal violence was a thing of the past. “Paramakudi, Moradabad, Gopalpur, Rudrapur; how many more victims, SITs [Special Investigation Teams], CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] enquiries, Supreme Court interventions are needed?” she asked.

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