Questioning the timing of bringing the Communal Violence Bill, Narendra Modi on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, describing the proposed legislation as “ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster”.
Terming the bill as an attempt to encroach upon the domain of states, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate sought wider consultations among various stakeholders, such as state governments, political parties, police and security agencies, before making any move on the issue.
Mr. Modi’s letter comes on the morning of beginning of the winter session of Parliament in which the bill is likely to be taken up.
“Communal Violence Bill is ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster,” Mr. Modi said in his letter.
The Gujarat Chief Minister said, “the timing to bring the bill is suspicious owing to political considerations and vote bank politics, rather than genuine concerns”.
Expressing strong concern that the proposed legislation would further divide people on religious and linguistic lines, Mr. Modi said, “religious and linguistic identities would become more reinforced and even ordinary incidents of violence would be given a communal colour thus giving the opposite result of what the bill intends to achieve“.
He also brought out various “operational issues” in the proposed Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013.
“For example, Section 3(f) that defines ‘hostile environment’, is wide-ranging, vague and open to misuse.
Likewise, the definition of communal violence under Section 3 (d) read with Section 4 would raise questions on whether the Centre is introducing the concept of ‘thought crime’ in the context of the Indian criminal jurisprudence,” the letter said.
Mr. Modi wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister that these provisions have not been examined from the view of the Evidence Act.
“The move to make public servants, police and security agencies criminally liable can adversely impact the morale of our law and order enforcement agencies and it may also make them vulnerable to political victimisation,” Mr.Modi said.
He also criticised the manner in which the Centre was bringing the communal violence bill, saying it showed no consideration for the nation’s federal structure.
“Law and order is an issue under the State List and (if) it is something that would have to be implemented by the state governments, then it should be legislated by the state governments,” the letter said.
Mr. Modi said if there was something the Centre wished to share, it was free to prepare a “model bill” and circulate it among various state governments for their consideration.
On the proposal to bring the National Human Rights Commission and and SHRC into the process of exercising powers that are vested in the executive wing of an elected government, Modi felt these bodies are already empowered under the existing statute to deal with serious human rights violations during incidents of communal violence.
“Burdening these bodies with redressal of all issues, handling of appeals and monitoring individual incidents is neither practical nor desirable. Thus, the role of the NHRC and the SHRC should pertain to their present roles under the existing laws,” Mr. Modi said.
Welcoming the establishment of a Communal Violence Reparation Fund, Mr. Modi, said use of the word ‘compensation’ was arguable, and added, “the government should leave the issues of compensation to the competent courts and should instead provide ex-gratia relief/assistance to provide immediate relief and succour to the victims“.
“The introduction of compensation for ‘moral injury’ under the bill is strange and it does not take into account implementability,” Mr. Modi said.
“As chief minister of a government that is sensitive to the issue of communal violence and a state that has been riot-free for over a decade now, I agree that there is a need to be vigilant on communal violence but the contents and timing of the bill are suspicious,” he said.
Keywords: Communal Violence Bill, winter session, parliament session, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, Manmohan Singh