Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Home ministry to push ahead the controversial Communal Violence Bill

The Home Ministry has decided to push ahead the controversial Communal Violence Bill which aims to check targeted violence against the minorities. The Ministry has submitted their draft of the bill to the Law Ministry for legal vetting.

A government source said there is an urgency now to bring the bill for Cabinet approval and introduce it in Parliament soon in an effort to get it passed in the tenure of UPA-2. This is especially because a draft of the proposed legislation was drawn up by the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) way back on July 25, 2011 and submitted for the Home Ministry's consideration. The Home Ministry has finally completed its deliberations on the proposed legislation and has submitted their draft bill to the Law Ministry. A source said the Ministry draft "largely sticks" to the provisions in the 'Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011' prepared by the NAC. The BJP is dead against the said draft as it aims to protect only the religious or linguistic minorities from violence by a majority group. BJP in the past has in fact called it a "dangerous bill", saying it will harm federal structure of the Constitution and questioned how the bill could presume that the majority community is always responsible for riots.

This bill also has a long history of being derailed due to political opposition. 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 the Parliament and notices were given in March, 2007, December 2008, February 2009, December 2009 and again in February 2010 in the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing of the Bill. However, the Bill 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, worked on a draft bill and submitted the same on July 25, 2011 to the Ministry.

The draft bill imposed duties on the Central Government and the State Governments and their officers to exercise their powers in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against religious or linguistic minorities, SCs and STs. The NAC draft also proposed the Central Government to constitute a body known as the National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under this Act and investigate incidents of communal violence in the country.