As the government prepares to table a bill in Parliament to check communal violence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed some of the legislation's provisions while the Left parties said they would wait to see if their suggestions had been incorporated in the proposed law.
"We have not seen the contents of the bill and will give a detailed reaction later. However, from what we have come to know, some of its provisions may constitute a serious encroachment on the federal nature of the Constitution," BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.
He said that states have the powers to make laws to deal with a law and order situation and there was dispute over legislative competence of the central government to deal with such a situation.(Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill
The union cabinet Thursday cleared the re-drafted Communal Violence for introduction in parliament.
The cabinet decision comes a week after the government tabled the Action Taken Report (ATR) on the Liberhan Commission report on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. The ATR promised that the government will bring the bill soon.
A controversial clause in the legislation allows the central government to declare an area in a state as "communally disturbed", giving it leeway to put a state government under a scanner.
Another clause stipulates three years' imprisonment for violation of section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code - illegal assembly of more than five persons at a time and at a place - in a communally disturbed area.
The parliamentary Standing Committee, scrutinising the bill, had raised certain queries stalling the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's plan to introduce the legislation in 2005.
A section in the bill which empowers the central government to send forces to communally disturbed areas was also a bone of contention. Almost all political parties, including the Left, had expressed reservation about this provision.
BJP MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said the BJP will oppose any move that aims at intruding into the states' domain.
"Law and order is a state subject. It should be left with the state government to deal with. Communal violence should be stopped but without interfering in states' affairs," he told IANS.
Left parties are waiting to read the draft before drawing up their policy response on whether or not to oppose the bill.
"Let them table it. The cabinet, I am told, has cleared it. As of now, my party won't be able to comment as we have not read the new draft," Communist Party of India (CPI) Rajya Sabha member D. Raja told IANS.
He said the bill is not new but the Left parties would study if the government has accepted the recommendations of the standing committee over some controversial clauses.
"It is not a new bill. Let's see what they have accepted and rejected. We had raised our dissent over some controversial clauses. We have to see if our reservations have been accommodated," Raja said.