The government's draft Communal Violence Bill came in for sharp criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and UP Chief Minister Mayawati at a meeting of the National Integration Council in New Delhi on Saturday.
BJP leaders called the bill "dangerous" and Mayawati, who heads the Bahujan Samaj Party, accused the government of not giving state governments a draft of the proposed legislation.
The bill -- which seeks to protect "groups" from communal violence and harm -- in clause 3 (a) of chapter 1 defines the victim groups as "religious and linguistic minority, in any state in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes".
Terming the proposed Communal Violence Bill as "dangerous", the BJP said it presumes that the majority community is always responsible for such riots.
"We feel that the Communal Violence Bill is a dangerous Bill as it harms the federal structure of the Constitution. It allows the Centre to hold all the powers. Moreover, it does not consider anybody a citizen and treats a person only as one belonging to either a majority or a minority," Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters.
"You will write off a person as a criminal, just because he or she is born in a majority community and you will presume that a person would be a victim only because you are born in a minority community. This bill is very dangerous," Swaraj added.
She also mentioned, "The draft bill presumes that the majority community is unjust, and the minority community is the victim. But in our country, various sections of community are in a minority in one state and a majority in another state. The provisions of the Bill will go against the majority community in various states."
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a senior BJP leader, alleged at the meeting the bill may encourage intolerance and harm federalism.
"The bill expresses feeling of mistrust in the state government machinery and lack clarity in defining crimes for organised communal violence," Chauhan said.
"I urge the union government to have faith in the state governments and strengthen them, which in turn will strengthen the nation. If state governments are weakened to serve some vested interests, the nation will become weak and it will give impetus to parochial forces," said Chauhan.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, another BJP leader, alleged the draft bill will harm the federal structure of the country.
"The proposed bill has many structural loopholes. The biggest problem is that this bill is against India's federal structure. The national authority set up with the help of this bill will have the power to issue directions to any state authority for any investigation," he said.
"Section 9 of this bill has been made on the presumption that the state government institutions are deliberately provoking religious fanaticism and violence. There should be no scope for such mistrust in a democratic system. This may also deter public servants to perform their assigned duties," he said.
The BJP believes the draft bill as having been prepared with the "Gujarat experience" as the subtext. It has rejected the draft bill for it believes it's based on the "presumption that communal trouble is created only by members of the majority community and never by a member of the minority community."
Mayawati accused the centre of seeking state governments' views on the bill without giving them a draft. "It is important to tell that the Centre has not sent the proposed communal violence bill to the state government. Hence it is not the opportune moment to comment on the Bill," Mayawati said in a written speech read out on her behalf at the meeting.
"It will be appropriate if the centre forwards the draft bill to the state governments and then seek their views on it," she said.