States cold to stricter anti-racial law

Updated - August 08, 2017 08:27 am IST

Published - August 07, 2017 11:05 pm IST - New Delhi

The Home Ministry’s proposal to amend the law to insert two stricter anti-racial discrimination provisions in the Indian Penal Code has got a lukewarm response from the States.

Only four of them — Uttar Pradesh, apart from Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram in the northeast — have given their assent to the proposed law. Three Union Territories — Andaman and Nicobar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshwadeep — have also agreed to the Centre’s proposal.

On July 26, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed the Rajya Sabha that the Ministry proposed to amend the IPC “to deal with the racially motivated crimes.”

“The Home Ministry has proposed to amend two provisions in the IPC, that is, Section 153A and Section 509A. These are proposed to be inserted into the IPC sections...since this matter comes under the Concurrent List, we have to obtain the opinion of the State Governments,” Mr. Rijiju had said.

A senior Home Ministry official said the first letters to the States were sent out in February this year.

The official explained that since the proposed amendment fell under the concurrent list of the Constitution, the opinion of majority of the States was required to push through the legislation.

Panel recommendations

Another official said that the amendments were based on the recommendations of the Bezbaruah Committee, constituted by the Centre in February 2014 in the wake of a series of racial attacks on persons belonging to the northeast.

Though the committee submitted its report in July 2014, the Home Ministry sent letters for States’ opinion only in February this year.

The draft 153 C IPC provision proposed by the Ministry says, “whoever promotes or attempts to promote, on the ground of race, racial features, behaviour, culture, customs or way of living, any act which is prejudicial to human dignity or dignity of members belonging to particular race and uses criminal force or violence in furtherance of such act, or, participates in such act intending to use criminal force or violence or knowing that participants in such act is likely to use criminal force or violence against the member of a race or cause or likely to cause fear or feeling of insecurity amongst the members of such race, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and fine.”

Wary of misuse

An official said they were also examining the possibility of the provisions being misused.

“Especially Section 509A IPC, which makes making a word or gesture, punishable by three years, difficult to prove. We do not want the culprits to go scot-free but no innocent should be punished either,” he added.

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