Friday, May 27, 2011

“Draft Bill on communal violence more draconian than TADA”

Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: The draft Bill on communal violence finalised by the National Advisory Council has been described by the Bharatiya Janata Party as “dangerous,” “draconian,” “discriminatory” and “damaging” to India's federal policy.

Senior party leader Arun Jaitley on Thursday circulated a note on the draft Bill clearly indicating that not only would the BJP not support it in Parliament but that it would fall foul of the Constitution for, if it were to become a law “the Centre would have usurped the jurisdiction of the States” on law and order, a subject clearly and entirely within their domain.

“Internal disturbance”

The note was critical of hate propaganda as an offence and also commented adversely on outbreak of communal violence to be treated as an “internal disturbance” that would attract imposition of President's rule. Above all, Mr. Jaitley said, the draft Bill was discriminatory as it exclusively dealt with violence targeted against a minority — religious, caste or linguistic. It did not deal with the possibility of minority violence against a majority community, he said.

Gujarat experience

When a campaign was carried on against TADA — Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act — the Congress and other members of the ruling alliance argued that normal laws were sufficient to deal with the menace. But now a “far more draconian law” was being proposed that would harm inter-community harmonious relations, Mr. Jaitley said.

The BJP leader argued that the NAC seemed to have kept in mind the Gujarat experience and was now trying to bring in a law that would “fix senior leaders” even when they were otherwise not liable for an offence.

He found fault with the manner of appointment of a 7-member national authority for communal harmony — and similar state authorities — under the proposed Bill although the suggested selection committee would have, besides the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and leaders of various political parties as members. Thus, Mr. Jaitley pointed out, “it is the Opposition at the Centre and in the States that would have a majority say in the composition of the Authority.”

The note made it clear the BJP would not relish the idea of such an authority in States ruled by it as the Opposition would have a major say in the composition of an authority that would have wide powers.

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