New Delhi, May 28 Soon after putting the draft Communal Violence Bill 2011 in public domain for suggestions by the National Advisory Council (NAC) on May 20, 2011, the reaction has begun to come. First of all, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed it ‘draconian’ while Congress accused the BJP of ‘misleading the nation’ on the draft communal violence bill. According to it, a party with ‘communal agenda’ is going to be naturally worried by such a bill.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley said on May 26 that provisions of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, intrude into the domain of the state, damage a federal polity and create an imbalance in inter-community relationship.
Jaitley denounced the draft communal violence bill saying it will intrude into domain of states, make only Hindus culpable and create discord in inter-community relations. In an article in Hindi released on May 26 and published in Dainik Jagaran, dated May 27, 2011, Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley argued that if the ostensible object of the bill was to prevent and punish communal violence, the effect would be contrary.
"The drafting of this bill appears to be the handiwork of those social entrepreneurs who have learnt from the Gujarat experience of how to fix senior leaders even when they are not liable for an offence," Jaitley said. Dubbing it as a law fraught with dangerous consequences, he said it was bound to be misused and will encourage minority communalism.
The BJP leader said the draft bill proceeded on the assumption that communal trouble was created only by members of the majority community and offences committed by them against the minority community were punishable. "No member of the majority community can ever be a victim. This draft law thus proceeded on an assumption which redefines the offences in a highly discriminatory manner," he said.
Jaitley argued that it could open up huge scope for abuse and incentivise members of certain communities to commit offences. "Terrorist groups may no longer indulge in terrorist violence. They will be incentivised to create communal riots due to the statutory assumption that members of a Jihadi group will not be punished under this law," he said.
The bill, under which a "group" means a religious or linguistic minority and in a given state may include Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, creates a set of new offences. "The most vital definition of the bill is of the expression group," Jaitley said.
Listing out some offences, he said the draft bill prescribed that a person is said to commit sexual assault through such an act against a person belonging to a 'group,' hate propaganda was an offence when a person through oral or written communication caused hate against a 'group' or a person belonging to a 'group' and any person acting under the influence of an association engages in unlawful activity directed against a 'group' was guilty of organised communal and targeted violence.
Further, a clause provides for punishment of a person who expends or supplies money in the furtherance or support of an offence against a 'group' and under another an offence of torture is made out where a public servant inflicts pain or a suffering on a person belonging to a 'group'.
Alleging that the bill, if passed in the present form, would damage the federal polity of the country, he said the Centre was not empowered to deal or legislate on law and order, a state subject. He pointed out that the central government's jurisdiction restricted itself to issue advisories, directions and eventually forming an opinion under Article 356 that governance of the state can be carried on in accordance with the Constitution or not.
Reacting on Jaitley’s remarks a day before, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said here on May 27: “We are shocked at the BJP’s reaction. Firstly, nothing has been finalized. Opinions are being sought from diverse sections. The BJP is trying to further its communal agenda. It is trying to do so by pre-emptive strike and debunking a draft bill under discussion.”
Singhvi further said: “The country knows which political party has communal agenda from its birth, continues to be bound by umbilical chord of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and carries the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri with ease, sometimes with pride.” ‘It is going to be naturally worried, that’s why the pre-emptive strike,’ he said.
Accusing the BJP of rumour-mongering and pernicious propaganda, Singhvi said only one of the 60 clauses in the draft bill gives central government power of intervention in case of communal disturbance and this provision too was hedged in by three cumulative conditions such as waiting for state government to take action.
‘What is the harm in (the central government) having residual power. Secularism is part of basic structure of this country,’ he said. Singhvi also said communal violence prevention bill was a special act focused at inspiring confidence in minorities, whether linguistic or religious, in every state. ‘If minority community indulges in violence, the IPC (Indian Penal Code) applies very strongly,’ he said.
Earlier, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said on May 26 that the government was determined to take forward the communal violence prevention bill despite objections from the BJP.
However, Muslim organizations think otherwise. Muslim organizations like Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat (AIMMM) and All India Milli Council (AIMC) have demanded amendment in the said bill. They were of the view that there was nothing clear in this bill with regard to the communal violence’s responsible administration, police or state. According to them, the existing clauses in the bill provided those responsible for the violence more powers.
It is to point out that the AIMC and Jamiat were represented in the NAC. The Jamiat was represented by Advocate Neyaz Ahmed Faruqui, Advocate Shakil Syed and CA Kamal Farooqui. Neyaz Faruqui said Jamiat had steered a nation-wide movement for the inclusion of the positive points in the bill. According to him, until the administrative and police officers in an area wherein the violence had occurred were not held responsible, it was very difficult to control the violence. AIMC General secretary Dr M Manzoor Alam said AIMC had organized a number of times meetings demanding relevant changes in the bill.