Bill on communal violence invites strident debate

Commenting on the proposed Bill by the Centre, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi alleged that “political considerations and vote bank politics rather than genuine concerns” were guiding it. File photo  

With opposition to the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill mounting, the UPA government is working to amend some of its key provisions. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party has questioned the “timing” of the legislation, UPA government sources said it would bring the Bill forward in the current Parliament session.

On the opening day of the session on Thursday, the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sharply on the Bill. He alleged that “political considerations and vote bank politics rather than genuine concerns” were guiding it. Alleging that the timing was “suspicious”, he dubbed it “ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster.”

Reacting to opposition to the Bill, the Prime Minister told journalists outside Parliament his government was making efforts to build consensus on “all matters of legislative importance.”

Asserting that the government would bring forward the Bill in this session, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde brushed aside opposition criticism, saying the “government is doing its work.”

Highly placed sources said the government was diluting some of the provisions and making changes to ensure that the Bill remains “netural” among communities. It would also not make any mention of “majority” or “minority” communities, the sources said. The Bill would not violate the federal structure, and the Home Ministry would send Central paramilitary forces to States on their request.

The Bill, which aims to protect minorities from targeted attacks, is facing stiff opposition also from the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Biju Janata Dal: they favour building of consensus and recommend a uniform application of the law.

However, Mr. Modi was unsparing in his criticism. He alleged the Bill is in “clear violation of India’s Federal structure,” and accused the Centre of framing laws on matters that are in the State List. “If a legislation has to be implemented by the States, should it not be legislated by the States?”

Urging the Prime Minister to seek wider consultation with the States and other stakeholders before proceeding further, Mr. Modi questioned the Centre’s “hurry” to introduce the Bill in Parliament. He alleged that such an attempt before the 2014 general elections is “suspicious and driven by vote bank politics rather than genuine concern for preventing communal violence.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 7:08:22 PM |

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