A last-minute attempt by the UPA government to revive the eight-year-old communal violence bill is headed for trouble despite a move to tone down controversial provisions that give the Centre the power to intervene.
Pushing for the bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday the government would try to evolve a consensus on issues which are of “great” legislative importance. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi dubbed the bill a recipe for disaster .
In its new form, the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, restricts the Centre’s role to that of a coordinator if a state calls for help during an outbreak of communal violence. The home ministry has dropped provisions relating to the majority and minority community. Targetting people on grounds of religious and linguistic identity has been defined as communal violence in the new provisions.
The bill redefine communal violence as now describes communal violence as the one targeted at talks of violence targeted at people on religious and linguistic identity
The government would bring the bill during the winter session, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said. The session that opened on Thursday is possibly the last chance for the UPA to conduct legislative business ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
New provisions were religion-neutral, a home ministry official involved in drafting the legislation told HT. The changes give the district administration and police the powers to take all possible steps to prevent and control violence, said the official who didn’t wish to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
But the officials will also face jail terms – ranging from two to five years -- if they fail to do their job. Senior officers can also be jailed if personnel under their charge fail to take necessary steps.
Modi, who joined CMs of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu on Thursday to oppose the bill, argued that such provisions belittled the security forces and painted them “as communal as large”.
The bill was on the agenda of UPA-1 in the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat riots and an earlier version has been pending in the Rajya Sabha since 2005.
It was shoved into the cold storage after activists tried to push the Congress-led coalition to include provisions allowing the Centre to intervene if the state government fails to respond to the crisis at hand.
Modi questioned the UPA’s timing of reviving the legislation “just a couple of months” before the announcement of the 2014 general elections.
“It makes the move look very suspicious,” he said. The Centre’s timing were a “giveaway” that political considerations dictated by vote-bank politics rather than genuine concern for preventing violence dictated the move, the Gujarat strongman said.