Congress plans to table communal violence bill

Winter session of Parliament likely to be held next month

Keen to highlight its secular credentials ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in five states and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress plans to table the Communal Violence (Prevention) Bill in the winter session of Parliament likely to be held next month.

The move comes in the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar communal riots in which over 50 people were killed and several displaced.

The bill was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha way back in 2005 and was referred to a Parliamentary committee which gave its report in 2006. The bill, however, could not be taken up for consideration.

A draft bill was prepared by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) and submitted to the Home Ministry in 2011.

Certain provisions of the draft bill ran into opposition from a section of the bureaucracy as well as the BJP. The BJP was opposed to a provision that held the majority community as the perpetrator of violence.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said work has begun on moving ahead with the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill that aims at protecting minorities from targeted attacks. Soon after the Muzaffarnagar riots, Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shinde on bringing the bill for consideration of Parliament during the upcoming winter session.

A law on the lines of the bill would have fixed accountability for Muzaffarnagar riots and helped victims who are still awaiting rehabilitation, Shinde said.

The draft bill largely sticks to the provisions in the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, prepared by the NAC.

Meanwhile, the BJP reacted angrily and accused the Congress of trying to “communalise” the country before elections. BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “We are in support of a law to stop communal violence. But in this bill some provisions were made deliberately to target certain organisations and groups. Let’s see in what form it comes to Parliament.”

The Law Ministry is learnt to have objected to certain clauses in the draft bill, including responsibility of bureaucrats if communal violence erupts, saying they would come in the way while executing normal duty.

The bill also proposes establishment of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation by the Centre, a proposal which has been opposed by the state governments’.

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