Strongly opposing the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013, in its present form, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today asked the Centre not to move it hastily and have wider consultations with the states.
"I would, therefore, strongly urge upon you not to move the proposed Bill in the winter session of Parliament. At best, the issue should be opened for wide debate and consultation instead of pushing a hastily incubated Bill on such a matter of grave national importance," Patnaik said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Such a serious matter of national importance like communal violence should not be a subject of political marketing, particularly when elections were around the corner, Patnaik said.
Stating that he had earlier in December 2011 written to the Union Home Minister, Patnaik expressed concern over the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011, which has now been modified with certain changes.
Though the new draft bill contained some modifications, Patnaik said that most of the concerns conveyed earlier have still not been addressed.
"Barring cosmetic changes, changes of nomenclature and re-numbering of provisions, the import of the earlier Bill still remains substantially the same in the present draft Bill," he said.
Clause 3(f) which defines 'hostile environment' included in Sub-section (v) 'any other act, whether or not it amounts to an offence under this Act, that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment', would leave the definition of crime, wide open to liberal interpretation and misuse, he said.
Similar was the situation with Section-6 regarding 'hate propaganda', Patnaik said, adding that the proviso was perfunctory.
Patnaik said "Clause 10A, 10B and 10C which relate to dereliction of duty of public servants, offences by public servants for reach of communal responsibility and offences by other superiors for breach of command responsibility will have an impact opposite to the intended objective.
"Communal situations as such, are sensitive and stressful for field officers. If officers carry the psychological burden of impending criminal liability, they are more liable to make mistakes or to abandon responsibility instead of fully committing themselves to resolve the situation," the chief minister said.
Patnaik also opposed the provision of mandatory judicial inquiry in all communal disturbances, which he termed, as 'highly unjustified'.
"It should be left to the wisdom of the state government to assess the need for judicial inquiry depending upon the scale and magnitude of the communal disturbance," he said.
He said that there was dichotomy in Sec l0 (b) and Sec 11.
Under Section 10(b), disobedience of the command of the superior officer was an offence, whereas the legality of the command of a superior officer was in question in Sec 11.
The constitution of a competent authority u/s 13, if it happened to be different from the District Magistrate, would create confusion in the chain of command during actual ground situations.
As the role envisaged for the National and state authorities in the earlier draft Bill has now simply been transferred to NHRC and SHRC, he said, "The NHRC and SHRC can suo motu act under the existing powers wherever they deem necessary or are approached by the aggrieved citizens.
"Therefore, making it incumbent upon these Commissions to put in process their powers in every case of communal disturbance, has no logic."
Patnaik said that giving powers to the National and State Human Rights Commissions to override or supervise the constitutional authority of the elected state governments was in direct conflict with the basic tenets of democracy.
"Hence, their role as envisaged in the draft Bill is not acceptable."
Patnaik also said that an impression was being conveyed that the Centre was more concerned about communal disturbances and law and order in the states, as compared to the states themselves.
"Obviously this view will not be subscribed to," he said.