The controversial Communal Violence Bill, which has been hanging in the lurch for about a decade now seems to be dumped for now. The bill aimed to protect minorities from targeted attacks but it seems there are few takers of the bill in the country at present.
The bill was drafted in 2010 and with its edits it was redrafted in the present form. The coutry since then has still witnessed communal tensions in several places. The recent Muzaffarnagar riot victims were neither rehabilitated nor the administration was made accountable for the killing of sixty six people. More than fifty thousand were displaced due to riots and are still living in makeshift homes.
The ruling BJP had dubbed the Bill as “anti-majority” while some regional parties felt it violated federal principles. The Bill was also opposed by some states as it sought to empower the central government to send central forces unilaterally in the event of communal disturbances.
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 Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council. The bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2005 and subsequently referred to the Department—related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs. The Committee submitted its report in 2006 to Parliament and notices were given in March 2007, December 2008, February 2009, December 2009 and again in February 2010 in Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing of the Bill. The bill, however, could not be taken up for consideration on any of these occasions.
Thereafter, several suggestions from civil society groups were received and examined. Finally, the NAC said in July 2010 that there was a need to revise the law to deal with communal violence. It worked on a draft bill and submitted it on July 25, 2011 to the Home Ministry.
Officials in the Union Home Ministry and the Law Ministry reportedly have objected to certain clauses of the draft bill, including responsibility of bureaucrats if communal violence erupts, saying “they would come in the way of performing normal duties”. The bill also proposes constitution of a body — National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation — by the Centre to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under this Act.