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BJP opposes bill to fight riots

New Delhi, June 25: The BJP has told the Standing Committee on Home Affairs that the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005, is “totally unacceptable” as it threatens to disrupt the federal structure of the country.

The committee is expected to submit its confidential report on the bill to Parliament on the last day of the first week of the monsoon session.

The bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December and subsequently referred to the standing committee, which comprises 35 MPs. Although its proceedings are kept under wraps, the committee is learnt to be consulting a panel of four experts ' Fali Nariman, Jaspal Singh, Zoya Hasan and M.P. Singh ' on the bill.

The committee has reportedly sought recommendations from all political parties, and the BJP is believed to have made the following objections:

  • Chapter XI empowers the Centre to deal with communal violence in a state and take over its law and order mechanism if it suspects that the state does not intend to act. The BJP says this provision would upset the federal structure as there are no safeguards against the misuse of the special powers

  • The composition of the relief committees is not “balanced” ' the “majority” community has not been given any representation

  • The BJP is also opposed to the clause pertaining to disqualification of a legislator

“Provisions of Chapter XI completely erode the federal structure of the state. Law and order is a state subject. How can the Centre have arbitrary powers to declare an area communally sensitive and send in paramilitary forces'” asked a senior BJP leader.

The party’s arguments, however, are in contrast to that of human rights organisations and women’s groups.

In their public report, Colin Gonsalvez of the Human Rights Law Network and anti-communal group Anhad have attacked the bill on the ground that all the core sections regarding prevention, containment and punishment of communal offences only come into effect if the state government concerned issues a notification.

“A state government may issue a notification bringing the statute into force in the state and yet render it sterile by not issuing further notifications declaring certain areas to be communally disturbed,” Gonsalvez said in his report.

“The prospect of the infamous Gujarat experiment of a state-sponsored terrorising of minority citizens is still a real enough threat. It is for this reason that the bill was so eagerly awaited. But what this law sets out to do is not to protect innocent citizens from such acts of their elected rulers. Instead, it sets out perversely to vest those same state administrations with even more powers.”

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