Avoid Hasty Passage of Communal Violence Bill

Published: 05th December 2013 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th December 2013 11:27 AM   |  A+A-

At the outset of the winter session of parliament, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa has done well to write to the prime minister warning against introducing the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill. With just six months to go for the term of the present Lok Sabha to end and for general elections, any hasty attempt to bring in such legislation without wide consultation among all political parties and stakeholders would be undemocratic. Enforcing such a divisive agenda will only lead to confrontation with the opposition, particularly the BJP, whose co-operation the UPA needs for passage of several other bills that are in national interest. The BJP has broadly agreed to bills on women’s reservation and ratification of India-Bangladesh land agreement. Instead of confrontation the UPA must seek consensus so that parliament can function and useful business is transacted.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s dig at the Centre for “polarising” the country on “communal lines” ahead of the general elections by circulating a revised draft of the bill among states is certainly not without basis. Jayalalithaa’s letter pointed out that law and order and public order were state subjects and several provisions encroached on the federal structure of the Constitution and could be abused. Such reactions cannot be brushed aside for political expediency. At the National Integration Council meet in 2011 at which the legislation was first mooted, several chief ministers had opposed the bill on the grounds that it would be destructive of the Constitution’s federal structure. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has also accused the Centre of unnecessarily “interfering in the activities of the state governments”.

Clearly, there are strong reasons for the Centre to not bulldoze the Bill through parliament without discussion and debate just because the ruling dispensation wants to win some brownie points with the minorities before elections. Sensitive issues need to be handled with greater care than the UPA government seems willing to do.


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