iconimg Friday, September 04, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 03, 2013
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is counting on non-Congress chief ministers to stop the passage of a bill aimed at preventing communal violence. The bill is back on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) agenda ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year and is generating heat over its proposed introduction in the winter session of Parliament beginning Thursday.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Tuesday accused the Centre of "polarising" the country on "communal lines" ahead of the general elections by circulating a revised draft of the bill among states.

He cited Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing the proposed introduction of the bill in the winter session. 

"It appears that ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, in order to polarise the country on communal lines, the ministry of home affairs has again written a letter to the state governments enclosing therewith revised draft of the bill," Jaitley wrote on his blog.

The leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said even though the draft bill was yet to be made public, the Tamil Nadu CM had done well to initiate a public debate on the issue.

On Monday, Jayalalithaa had urged the PM not to introduce the bill as it suffered from "lacunae" and encroached upon the powers of states.

She opposed the revised draft, terming the changes cosmetic and highly objectionable.

Jaitley said Jayalalithaa's letter mentioned that law and order and public order were state subjects and several provisions encroached on the federal structure of the Constitution and could be abused. "Her views appear to be logical, reasonable and in consonance with the federal structure of the Constitution."

Jaitley's statement came even as Union home secretary Anil Goswami, on a directive from home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, met home and law secretaries of all states as a part of the government's bid to build a "consensus" on the proposed bill.

Jaitely said, so far, there had not been adequate consultation with the stakeholders on Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, which was first submitted in 2011 by the National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

"This draft bill was put on the net for consultation. I had written a strong critique of this bill, amongst others, on the ground that law and order and public order are state subjects and that Parliament by enacting such a law would be encroaching on the domain of the states," he said.

Jaitley said the earlier bill was highly discriminatory and gave unguided power to authorities proposed to be created and loaded the redress and accountability mechanism in favour of one community against the other on the basis of religion.

At the National Integration Council meet in 2011, several chief ministers opposed the bill on the grounds that it would be destructive to the federal structure of the Constitution.

Amid the government's latest push for the bill, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had last week accused the Centre of unnecessarily "interfering in the activities of the state governments".

Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha too strongly oppose the bill.