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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

New law on riots

New Delhi: The Union home ministry has sent a draft note to the law ministry to formulate a Bill on communal violence. 

The new law will define communal violence. Currently the existing laws do not draw a line between communal violence and a law and order problem.
One of the home ministry suggestions is to have different sections under the new law along the lines of CrPC and IPC to deal with specific aspects of communal violence and it suggests stringent punishment under different sections.

To expedite trial, the home ministry has recommended constitution of designated and special courts in each state. Another suggestion is formation of special forces in each state to ensure that no allegations are made on communal lines against law-enforcement agencies. A similar set-up will be in place at the Centre. To curb involvement of a particular community, the home ministry has proposed a “community fine” also.

The Bill will empower centre to send enforcements, but this will be done in consultation with state governments.

A home ministry source said that the law ministry is currently examining the proposals, it can drop or alter the suggestions but the idea is to have a structure to firmly tackle communal violence

The proposed law will focus on the procedure for investigation and trial of communal violence related crimes, relief and rehabilitation measures and mechanism for speedy control of the law and order in the affected areas. The law has been one of the major promises of the UPA government’s common minimum programme.

Union home minister Shiv Raj Patil has indicated that the law would deal with "collective penalty" for those taking part in communal riots. However, Patil made it clear that this was just one of the ideas being discussed and nothing yet has been finalised.

The draft Bill would be posted on the Internet for discussion in the media and among academicians, legislators and lawyers. Seminars would be held before the government decides on a final draft to be placed before Parliament, he said.
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