In a major embarrassment to the UPA Government, the Opposition on Wednesday forced the government to defer the introduction of the new version of the controversial Communal Violence Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
The trouble started on the very first day of the extended Winter Session when Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde sought to introduce the Bill. Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley objected to the introduction of the Bill contending that Parliament does not have competence to legislate this law as it will violate the spirit of federalism. Jaitley got the support from almost the entire Opposition including the CPM, AIADMK, DMK and the Samajwadi Party.
After a brief debate on the issue, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien ruled that the Communal Violence Bill stands deferred in view of the “mood of the House”.
However, before it was deferred, Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal pointed out that federal structure was not being violated.
“No provision in the Bill affects the federal structure. The Centre can take action only with the consent of states and the power has been given to the human rights commission,” Sibal said.
Countering the argument, Jaitley said the issue was not of execution, but of legislative competence to enact such a law. “The power to enact such a law is with the state legislature,” he added.
In response to Jaitley, Sibal referred to the 2002 Gujarat riots and said such a Bill is necessary for the Central intervention in the event of state-sponsored communal activity. “If a state itself is indulging. If it is the state-sponsored communal activity, then it is not a law and order issue. Like what happened in Gujarat is not a law and order issue,” Sibal argued.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said when the very legislative competence is questioned, the Bill cannot be introduced. “Without settling it, even the discussion on it will be ultra vires the Constitution,” he said.
AIADMK leader Maitreyan pointed out that various Chief Ministers opposed to some of the provisions of the Bill. “Law and order is a state subject. The Central Government has no power. We strongly oppose the Bill.”
SP leader Naresh Agrawal supported him.