IOS Consultative Meet on Communal Violence Bill (November 22, 2013)
New Delhi, Nov. 20, 2013: A consensus emerged on the efficacy and purposefulness of the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013 at a consultative meeting organised by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) here last evening.
Participants at the meeting, drawn from legal and academic fraternity and social service, unequivocally acknowledged that the proposed bill was certainly an improvement over the previous two bills of 2005 and 2011.
Initiating the discussion, the Chairman of the IOS, Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam, expressed the confidence that the bill would be introduced by the UPA government in the coming session of Parliament. He said that in order to garner support from non-BJP parties that had opposed the bill earlier, they would be approached to back the bill when it would be taken up for debate in Parliament.
The secular parties that had supported it earlier, would also be impressed upon to facilitate easy passage of the bill. Explaining the purpose for holding the consultative meeting, he said the suggestions made there would be forwarded to the Union Home Minister for inclusion in the bill. He said that the support for the bill gathered momentum with the growing demand from Muslim organisations to enact the anti-communal violence law.
A committee was formed to take a fresh look at the bill and suggest ways to make it more purposeful and deterrent to the eruption of communal violence. The former chief Justice of India, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, who chaired the consultative meeting, was tasked with compilation of the suggestions received from the committee members. It was decided to forward the suggestions to the Union Home Minister for incorporation in the bill.
The proposed bill was discussed threadbare at the meeting. Right to equality guaranteed under the Indian Constitution attracted the attention of the speakers, who endorsed the purpose of the bill to impose the duty on the Centre and state governments to exercise power to prevent targeted violence, including mass violence against SCs, STs and linguistic and religious minorities. The features of the bill that came up for discussion included the definition of communal and targeted violence and imposition of penalty on public servants for dereliction of duty.
The speakers were satisfied that the relief and reparation, including compensation, would remain the same for all, including the dominant group. Some of them were apprehensive of the provision for setting up of the National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation, since its recommendations would not be binding.
The experts felt that the provision for penal action against public servants found guilty of dereliction of duty, was the most important feature of the bill. While underlining the urgent need for tabling the bill at the earliest opportunity, the experts pleaded for making it fool-proof.
No hole in the bill should be left for the opponents to take advantage of it. The participants decided to elicit maximum support for the bill and reach a consensus among all stakeholders.
The consultative meeting was attended, among others, by Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed, advocate, Supreme Court, Prof. Afzal Wani, Mr. M.U. Siddiqui, Mr. Riyaz Ahmad Salehi of Jamat Ahl-e-Hadis and Dr. Eqbal Husain of Jamia Millia Islamia.