|Naveen Patnaik and (above) Manmohan Singh
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 7: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today opposed the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, urging the Centre not to introduce it in the Parliament during the ongoing winter session.
“I would strongly urge upon you not to move the proposed bill in the winter session of the Parliament. At best, the issue should be opened for wider debate and consultations instead of pushing a hastily incubated bill on such a matter of grave national importance,” Naveen said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent today.
The bill assumes significance in the backdrop of 2008 communal violence that had hit the state.
Naveen recalled that he had earlier expressed his “deep concern” over the proposed bill prepared by the Centre in his letter addressed to the Union home minister on December 17, 2011. “I now find that the ministry of home affairs has asked the state governments for comments on the revised prevention of communal violence bill. Further, it is disconcerting to know from media reports that the Centre plans to introduce the bill in the winter session of the Parliament,” he said. Naveen said he had raised his strong objections regarding encroachment upon state’s autonomy as law and order is a state subject. Besides, he had objected to “loosely-worded” definition of offences, provisions “liable for misuse to harass government officials” and constitution of new overriding authorities with directorial powers.
“The new draft bill now circulated contains some modifications, but most of my concerns conveyed earlier are still not addressed. Barring cosmetic changes, changes of nomenclature and renumbering of provisions, the import of the earlier bill still remains substantially same in the present draft bill,” he said.
Citing certain instances, Naveen said the definition of “hostile environment” (Clause 3-f) would leave the definition of crime wide open to liberal interpretation and misuse. Similar is the situation with the Section 6 regarding “hate propaganda” and the proviso. “I feel that there is no need for the provisions of clauses 10A, 10B and 10C as the existing provisions are sufficient for the purpose,” he said.
“Giving powers to the National Human Rights Commission and the state commissions to override or supervise the constitutional authority of the elected state governments is in direct conflict with the basic tenets of democracy. Hence, their role as envisaged in the draft bill is not acceptable,” said the chief minister.
“Such a serious matter of national importance such as communal violence should not be a subject of political marketing, particularly when elections are round the corner,” he said.