THE obnoxious Prevention of Communal Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2011 drafted by the extra-constitutional “National Advisory Council” Chaired by Sonia Gandhi is based on the horrendous presumption that communal trouble is created only by the majority community and never by the minority community. Can a drafting committee be so biased and contemptuous of rationality and facts of life? How can a Bill to deal with a hugely sensitive issue like communal riots discriminate on religious and caste considerations? Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, famous for his legal and political acumen, has torn the Bill to shreds by his incisive analysis of the Bill’s several vicious provisions and questioned the very premise of the draft that implies that only majority community is responsible for all communal riots. The proposed law, he points out, will incentivise some communities to commit heinous offences encouraged by the fact that they would never be charged under the law and will encourage terrorist groups to incite communal riots knowing fully well that they too wouldn’t be covered under this pernicious piece of legislation. Church supported terrorist outfits operating in north-eastern states will be amongst the greatest beneficiaries as they too are outside the purview of the proposed law. They can indulge in crimes against the majority community with impunity. The Bill, if it is enacted as law by the Parliament, would keep jehadies who conspired and indulged in the Godhra carnage outside its purview. The NAC Bill would neither cover Shia-Sunni riots nor the heinous crime of chopping off the hand of a Christian professor by a Muslim radical group in Kerala as both the victim and the offender belong to the minority communities.
Hate propaganda against minorities is punishable under this stringent law. The law is likely to be abused in cases in which one were to make legitimate criticism of certain practices like discrimination against Muslim women under the Muslim Personal Law. However members and groups belonging to minority communities would not be liable to be booked under the law for spreading hatred against Hindus and their religious faiths and icons. Foreign funded Christian missionaries who indulge in fraudulent conversion of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other deprived sections of the Hindu society though a systematic hate campaign against Hindu beliefs and practices can gleefully continue to do so as they too would not be covered by the law on communal violence. Minority community groups would be free to spread hatred against Hindus by calling them kafirs and heathens without any fear of being hauled up under the law.
Yet another fundamental infirmity form which the draft suffers is that it equates communal conflicts with terrorism. Communal flare ups may be triggered by minor incidents and rumours spread by mischief mongers. Instead of curbing communal divisions and identity politics, the Bill is bound to widen the gulf between communities and would lead to communal tensions. That is perhaps the hidden agenda of the drafters of the Bill most of whom are guilty of promoting vote bank politics. Congress party’s untenable defence of the draft is that there is no point in discussing each and every provision at this stage and that these objections could be taken up when the Bill goes to the Parliamentary Standing Committees. Why publicise such an atrocious piece of legislation full of infirmities, if the purpose is not to illicit public opinion on its concepts and premises. Or is it meant to send a strong message to communal-minded Muslims and Christians that UPA II is out to appease them even at the cost of hurting national interests? The other argument that is equally bogus is that the draft is based on the experience that most riots are initiated by the majority community and it is the minorities that are always at the receiving end.
One of the provisions in the draft is that it would be enforced by a seven-member national authority of which at least four members, including the chairman and the vice chairman, must be from a minority community, It has raised the hackles of all right thinking citizens who believe in the principle that law must have a level-playing field. It is a dangerous and mischievous move. The authors are so biased and contemptuous of Hindus that they presume that an enforcement authority with a Hindu majority would not ensure fair play. The Bill is so irrational and biased that even the pro-Congress English language daily Hindustan Times has editorially condemned the NAC draft saying, “Its biggest flaw is that it makes provisions for punishment only for violence against minorities. Surely, if communal violence were visited on members of the majority community, the law can’t ignore this fact. This could mean that subversive elements in the minority community could indulge in communal violence without any fear of the law”. It goes on to point out that the most disturbing aspect of this Bill is the underlying presumption that it is only the majority community which is responsible for communal violence. No law should have different yardsticks for wrong doers on the basis of religion, ethnicity, language or gender. Further it negates the federal structure of the Union as it infringes on the powers of the State governments that are bound to resist Centre’s attempt to interfere in matters pertaining to law and order that is the domain of the states.
Critics have rightly raised serious objections to the very source of the draft – the National Advisory Council comprising of NGO types unelected and unelectable so-called representatives of the civil society. All of them have been hand-picked by Sonia Gandhi who enjoys enormous power without accountability. NAC is an extra constitutional authority that has been mandated to provide policy and legislative inputs to the Government. It is accountable to none but Sonia Gandhi. Its functioning has never been subjected to any review by Parliament. Its policy announcements and legislative initiatives exert coercive pressure on the Government. The very concept on which NAC was constituted is undemocratic and totally unacceptable in a parliamentary democracy.