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Ecumenical Response Requested Communal Violence Bill

May 27, 2011 by  
Filed under India, Persecution

Communal Violence BillDelhi, 26 May, 2011: The National Advisory Council (NAC) has brought out a draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011 prepared by its Working Group.  The NAC has decided to put the draft Bill in public domain.  The NAC expects citizens to send their comments and suggestions on or before 4th June 2011. The draft bill has also been sent to the Union Home and Law ministries for their comments. This draft bill has been brought in the context of Communal Violence in Gujarat in 2002 and anti-Christian Violence in Kandhamal in Orissa. The civil Society groups and religious minorities have been demanding a strong law to prevent mass violence against minorities.

 Key Guiding Principles at a Glance

• Broaden title and applicability of the law to include ‘communal & sectarian violence’
• Shift from empowering the State, to seeking action & accountability of State/public officials
• Basic framework of law must not rest on declaration of “disturbed areas”
• Need for an independent National Authority to ensure effective compliance with the law, without disturbing the federal structure.
• Ensure accountability & criminal liability of public officials for acts of omission & commission, for preventing or controlling communal & sectarian violence, or extending timely and adequate rescue, relief and rehabilitation
• Incorporate the doctrines of Command & Superior responsibility
• Definition of communal & sectarian violence to cover both isolated incidents as well as mass crimes, against people based on religious, caste, linguistic, regional and other identities.
• Need to specifically define and include new crimes/offences including sexual assault, enforced disappearances, torture, long-lasting social & economic boycott, and genocide, among others
• Need to remove prior sanction requirement for Hate Speech (Sec. 153A & 153B – IPC)
• Statutory obligation on government to lay down national standards for the entire spectrum of provisions for victims – including rescue, relief, compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement, restitution, reparation and recognizing the rights of internally displaced persons.
• Implementation according to the norms in point 10 to be a statutory obligation under this law
• Compensation amounts to be specified in terms of national norms under the law, and revised every 3 yrs
• Need for amendments in CrPC and Indian Evidence Act to meet extraordinary circumstance of communal & sectarian violence to protect victims’ rights
• Specific provisions for victim-witness rights to be made under this law
 
The new Draft Bill can be downloaded fromhttp://www.nac.nic.in/pdf/pctvb_amended.pdf For more information on the Bill please visit www.nac.nic.in

Suggestions on this Working Group Draft may be sent by 4 June 2011 towgcvb@nac.nic.in  or by post to Secretary, National Advisory Council, 2 Motilal Nehru Place, Akbar Road, New Delhi – 110 011

The National Council of Churches in India encourages Member Churches, other constituent bodies and individuals to send their comments and/or feedback to the NAC on or before 4th June, 2011.  Please also mark a copy to the National Council of Churches in India ncci@nccindia.in and samncci@gmail.com so that we can follow up with National Advisory Council.

– NCCI Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness
 

Will Communal Violence Bill be an Effective Tool ?
 
Bhopal, 26 May, 2011: Even though people of this country had to wait long to find solutions to the centuries old communal violence history of India, the proposed Bill gives hope to the Nation. The Indian history is smeared with sporadic violence but large scale communal violence began in 1784 with the Mangalore Treaty signed between Tippu Sultan and the British East India Company. Tippu Sultan carried out continous persecutions of Christians and Hindus for over a decade. The violence after the forced partition of India on communal lines, are many – The anti-sikh riots in 1984,  the large scale violence that followed the Rath Yathra of L K Advani and the Babari Masjid demolition in 1992 , intermittent uprising of violence against the linguistic minorities, Gujarat violence in 2002 and the Kandhmal communal violence in 2008 etc. These have all given a wide spectrum to the makers of the Bill, aimed at addressing not just victims of communal riots, but also dalits, tribals, linguistic minorities or any community that is in a minority in a particular region who are vulnerable to attack by more powerful members of society.
 
The 1992 communal violence, besides the growth and capturing of power by BJP, has encouraged political parties to enter into a secret understanding with the fundamental organizations. The extended influences of fundamental organizations have forced the political organizations to observe silence during communal clashes. We need to see the Bill against this back ground. The proposed Bill gives the Centre, power to intervene in cases of communal or targeted violence by invoking a provision in Article 355 of the Constitution that states, “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and ensure the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
 
The Bill defines communal and targeted violence as “any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation….” In Indian law, so far, only the SC and ST Atrocity Act recognises that certain groups can be targeted. The features of the Bill includes setting up a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation that will ensure national standards for the entire spectrum of provisions for victims, including rescue, relief, compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement, restitution, reparation and recognizing the rights of internally displaced persons. The National Authority that works as independent body will have the power to approach even the highest court of law to secure orders and the governments would have to respond to its reports within a period of one month. It has also provisions to deal with hostile environment like economic boycott, denial of public services, and forced migration etc. The national and state authorities will be empowered to take suo motu action to quell communal violence.   
 
The National Authority will have seven members of which at least four will be women, and no more than two can be retired civil servants and thus it provide greater space for civil society members. A specific feature is that it also provides provision to punish the head of a communal organisation for the acts committed by the foot soldiers, dereliction of duty by officials including the chain of administrators and political persons like Chief Ministers etc. The civil society activists see this Bill as the effective step to enforce the law, while those in government perceive it as a way of usurping its powers and this controversy even led to several extensions, and exit of members of its drafting and advisory committees. The Babus accused civil society activists of trying to disempower the existing administrative and justice mechanisms, but the goodwill of people persisted. Taking note of the opinions of different groups, we need to wait and see how this Bill will be used by the successive Governments to deal with communal and sectarian violence.
 
– Fr. Anand Muttungal

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