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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Bill soon on communal violence

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: The UPA government has given shape to a new bill on how to handle communal violence and will send it for approval soon. The bill, which has been drafted by the Home Ministry, aims at ensuring that Gujarat like crises never happens again. The draft bill has several proposals that could set the stage for a fresh confrontation between the UPA government and the BJP- led NDA.

Called the Communal Disturbances Act, the bill first defines what exactly constitutes communal violence. This could be controversial as the BJP may disagree with some definitions of what is communal violence and what is not. 

Under existing laws, the Union government cannot intervene when there is communal violence in a state unless the state government specifically seeks the Centre's intervention. The only alternative is to impose President's rule. 

The new bill proposes that the Centre can send Union police forces into a state when there is communal violence, even if the state government does not ask for them. 

The bill also states that the Centre will have the final word on who should conduct the investigation into the riots and the centre may decide to take over the investigations and not allow the state to hold the investigations. It proposes that if necessary, the Centre can intervene and try district officials who may have been ineffective or complicit in the violence. It even proposes that citizens of a town prone to communal violence pay a fine.

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