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Communal Violence Bill mired in controversy

The much talked about Communal Violence Bill has now become a bone of contention between National Advisory Council and the government. The Manmohan Singh government ignored NAC objections and made an attempt to get it passed in the budget session withought getting any clearance from the NAC, which is redrafting the communal violence bill afresh.  

According to NAC, Sonia Gandhi had earlier informed the government that the communal violence bill is being reconsidered and NAC hoped that the government would not press ahead in this regard until it was ready. NAC’s Joint secretary K Raju in his reply to an email from Indian Express said, “The current information that you had requested for is available on the NAC website. It is a work in progress and as mentioned in the website the Draft Bill is expected to be placed before the NAC by the Working Group by February, 2011. After consideration, NAC will take a decision with regard to placing the same in the public domain.” Recently NAC Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in a letter to Prime Minister mentioned that despite 80 amendments the bill needs to be further consulted with various stakeholders and be redrafted by NAC in association with legal experts and concerned ministries.

The Congress party in its manifesto had earlier promised that it would bring the communal violence bill in order to prevent a repeat of Gujarat like carnage against minorities. The bill was drafted in the year 2005 in close co-ordination with several NGOs, human rights activists and legal experts. So far it has witnessed 80 amendments and is still not in position to go through as expected. At every stage the bill has been opposed by one or the other for various reasons. NAC is trying to make it acceptable to one and all.

The National Advisory Council’s redrafting task has become little difficult as four of its members have resigned protesting because their concerns are not addressed. These four members are Shabnam Hashmi, John Dayal, Vrinda Grover and Usha Ramanathan. A statement signed by these four said, “Having engaged with the NAC process for seven months in different capacities, we find that the draft in progress is severely insufficient to address the lacunae and gaps of the government bill (of 2005).”  The Bill is on the top of the priority list of the PMO, Home Ministry and the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry and is most likely to be put before the House in the next Monsoon Session after it gets the nod from the NAC.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 20

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