Though several States have expressed opposition to the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill, the Union Cabinet on Monday gave its approval to it, paving the way for its introduction in the winter session of Parliament that ends on Friday.
Termed one of the key laws proposed by the UPA government, it has been pending for long. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said extensive discussions were held on the Bill.
The Union Home Secretary recently held consultations with State Home Secretaries.
Communal Violence Bill made community-neutral
Before the Union Cabinet on Monday gave its approval to the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill several State Home Secretaries had objected to the “anti-federal” provisions of the Bill.
The Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Odisha also wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying the proposed legislation was exclusively in the domain of the States and opposed the move to bring the Bill in Parliament. They also questioned the timing of the Bill ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and described the reworked draft as a “deliberate encroachment upon the jurisdiction of the States.” In fact, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had described the bill as “a recipe for disaster.”
Sources said the government was hopeful of pushing the “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013” in Parliament this session itself.
To allay apprehensions of the States, the Union has made the draft bill neutral among all groups or communities and the Central government will not have any perceived overriding powers anywhere. The earlier version specifically mentioned that the onus of riots lay on the majority community.
Sources in the government said the bill was not hitting the federal structure of the country as feared and the Central government’s role would largely be of coordination and it would act only when the State government sought help.
BJP to oppose
The BJP has maintained that it will oppose the Bill on the ground that the measure will be a “threat to India’s communal harmony.”