NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has expressed disagreement with the Centre that the prevailing penal provisions were good enough to cover the issue of hate crimes and racial violence, especially against the people of North Eastern states.
"No, it does not," reacted a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud when the Centre, while expressing reluctance to suggestions for a specific legislation, said sections 153 A and B of Indian Penal Code (IPC) covered anti-racial issues. "The examination is going on whether specific legislation is required or not as the provisions of the IPC covers everything and it would be wrong to say it does not cover it," Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh said. He said section 153 B IPC covers everything and the court could "examine" it.
"We will assist you. If you are not satisfied, we will replace it with a new law," he said. The deliberations were going on in the background of the recommendation of M P Bezbaruah committee which suggested amendment in sections 153 A and 153 B of the IPC as a long- term measure to deal with the issue of racial violence. While the law officer was trying to make his submission on the recommendation of Bezbaruah committee, which set up by the Ministry of Home Ministry (MHA) on February 5, 2014 after several incidents of hate crimes against persons hailing from the Northeast, the bench expressed displeasure that effective steps were not being taken to address the issues.
"Nothing is on record to show what steps have been taken. We are not going to take what is there in the affidavit," the bench said, adding "legislation is one part of the recommendations". The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on Friday, wanted to know from the Centre whether any steps have been taken to set up a nodal agency to monitor the complaints and related issues.
"A pro-active work has to be undertaken. What type of programme has to be there? Call your 'babus' and tell them. We have to pass an order. We can't issue ominous type of directions," the bench said stressing that there should be a nodal agency to address the issues of the Northeastern people.
The bench said there was a need to have a nodal agency, as at the time of need, it would be asked whom to catch to implement the measures as there would also be the requirement of coordination with various departments. The bench said the Bezbaruah committee had made several immediate and short term measures along with long term measures and all this should not remain only on paper.
"The people of Northeast are (staying) in large numbers in Delhi, Pune, Bangalore etc which are educational hub. You identify those areas where these people are in large numbers," the bench said, adding it is not visible whether any such nodal agency was working. The ASG said he will get back on all the issues raised by the bench and made a mention of steps already taken in the national capital to address the issues of the Northeastern people and what could be the best mechanism.
Earlier too, the court was informed that incorporation of law has to be done by Parliament and the Centre has to take steps. The bench, which has been hearing a batch of PILs filed in 2014 following several incidents of hate crimes in Delhi against persons hailing from Northeast, had also said that India had signed International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination way back in 1965.
The Bezbaruah panel was set up by MHA on February 5, 2014, to suggest "suitable remedial measures" which could be taken, in the wake of attacks on the people from the Northeast in Delhi and other parts of the country including the death of youth Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh. The petition filed by Karma Dorjee and others had said that Bezbaruah panel had recommended changes in the IPC to curb and punish incidents of racial violence targeting people from Northeast region.
The court had issued notice to the Centre on PILs seeking its direction to them to frame guideline to protect the people from Northeastern states in various parts of the country against alleged racial discrimination. The petitions had alleged that people from Northeastern region, who move out of their states in search of better opportunities for studies and jobs, were subjected to racial taunts and violence on a daily basis due to their physical appearance at the hands of people of their own country.