The controversial Communal Violence Bill, which has been hanging fire for some years, is getting a fresh push from the Government with one Union minister even pitching for its introduction in the Winter Session of Parliament.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said work has begun on moving ahead with the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill that aims to protect minorities from targeted attacks.
“I have sought details of the bill from the concerned department,” he told reporters in Delhi…Asked whether the bill will be tabled in the next session of Parliament, expected to begin November-end, Me. Shinde said he was not sure. “But yes, work has started on it,” he said.
Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan while noting that Muzaffarnagar riots had underlined inadequacies in existing laws to deal with such clashes pitched for introduction of the Bill in the Winter Session.
Asked if UPA would table the Bill in the next session of Parliament, Mr. Khan told PTI that he was in its favour “but the decision has to be taken by the government”.
A law on the lines of the Bill would have fixed accountability for Muzaffarnagar riots and helped victims who are still waiting for rehabilitation, he said.
The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas last month claimed 62 lives and displaced over 40,000 people.
Mr. Khan dismissed BJP’s claim that the UPA government is pushing for the Bill with an eye on elections, saying it has been under consultation for a long time and the government’s job is to function “till the last day”.
BJP has dubbed the Bill as “anti-majority” while some regional parties feel it violated federal principles.
The Bill has also been opposed by some states as it seeks to empower the central government to send central forces unilaterally in the event of communal disturbances.
The draft bill largely sticks to the provisions in the ’Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011’ prepared by Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said any step that will reduce communal violence is a good thing but the implications of the proposed bill on the state has to be discussed before his party, National Conference, takes any decision.
“What effect it will have on Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view the special status of the state, what will be the role of our party and role of the coalition (partners), it needs to be discussed,” he told reporters in Srinagar. NC is an ally of Congress in UPA.
“I do not see why it should be opposed by any party. It is not any community specific. Any communal violence should be curbed and there should a law for that,” Khan said.
Mr. Khan said he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Shinde after the riots, pushing for tabling of the Bill in Parliament and the Home Minister wrote back to him, saying it is “under consideration“.
The BJP reacted angrily to the move and accused Congress of trying to “communalise” country before elections.
“We are in support of a law to stop communal violence. But in this Bill some provisions were made deliberately to target certain organisations and groups. Let’s see in what form it comes to Parliament,” party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Another party leader Balbir Punj said UPA is resorting to diversionary tactic. “They (UPA) are trying to force communal political agenda...trying to communalise the country.”
The bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2005 and subsequently referred to the Department—related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The Committee submitted its report in 2006 to Parliament and notices were given in March 2007, December 2008, February 2009, December 2009 and again in February 2010 in Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing of the Bill.
The bill, however, could not be taken up for consideration on any of these occasions.
Thereafter, several suggestions from civil society groups were received and examined. Finally, the NAC said in July 2010 that there was a need to revise the law to deal with communal violence. It worked on a draft bill and submitted it on July 25, 2011 to the Home Ministry.
Officials in the Union Home Ministry and the Law Ministry reportedly have objected to certain clauses of the draft bill, including responsibility of bureaucrats if communal violence erupts, saying they would come in the way of performing normal duties.
The bill also proposes constitution of a body -- National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation -- by the Centre to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under this Act.
Sources said there have strong objections from some state governments on setting up of such a “supervisory body”.