Around eight years after it was first introduced in parliament, the bill to protect minorities from communal violence, appears set for a delay due to differences between the home and law ministries.
The red flag by the law ministry on the provision in the bill to set up a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Repatriation, will give the UPA government a legitimate reason to keep the controversial legislation buried in the election year.
The government’s legal arm has pointed out that though setting up the proposed authority is a good step, it cannot be given powers to overrule state governments in areas faced with communal violence, since it will amount to disturbing the federal structure.
The bill titled Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, has been returned by the law ministry to the home ministry with its suggestions.
The draft of the bill has incorporated many suggestions given by the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
It proposes to impose duties on the central and state governments and their officers to exercise their powers in an impartial manner to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence against religious or linguistic minorities and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The law ministry has advised consultations with state governments on those key provisions of the bill which requires their active role in dealing with the situation in disturbed areas.
This process is likely to last several months since states ruled by non-UPA parties, particularly the BJP and its allies are opposed to the bill terming it as “dangerous” for presuming that the majority community is responsible for riots.