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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Bill to fight communal clashes gathers dust

A bill, proposing prompt action to combat communal riots is still gathering dust, nearly three years after it was introduced in parliament, reports Nagendar Sharma.

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2008 01:48 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times

A bill, proposing prompt action to combat communal riots is still gathering dust, nearly three years after it was introduced in parliament. The UPA's common minimum programme promised such steps about four and a half years ago.

The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2005. The Standing Committee submitted its report on the bill a year later, but it is still awaiting discussions in parliament.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil said, “I call it the Bill for Communal Harmony and would make all efforts to see that it is passed. We would try to get it in the business list for the forthcoming session.”

Patil, however, refused to answer why the government had done nothing in last four and a half years. His junior in the ministry, Shakeel Ahmed, said Christian groups from Orissa had recently raised the demand for such a law at a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“We are seriously considering it. Sometimes delays are for reasons beyond the government's control. The Left parties were not happy with the present draft of the bill,” Ahmed said.

But senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “We had twice met the Home Minister over the bill and demanded that an effective deterrent against communal violence should be the focus. The government should answer why it delayed the bill.”

The bill proposed sweeping powers to the Central and state governments to deal with riots. The state was empowered to declare affected areas as “communally disturbed”. In case the state failed to act, the bill provided for the Centre to issue a declaration.

The bill proposed imprisonment, which may be twice the term for a similar offence in Indian Penal Code. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs had objected to certain provisions, including the one which sought to empower the Centre to send forces to a state, after declaring it a “disturbed area.”

The government is, however, not bound to accept the standing committee recommendations, though in this case it has not made it clear what it intends to do.