The redrafted Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2010 empowers victims of communal violence to “have rights relating to having access to information of proceedings and legal documents and to participate and to be heard at all stages of registration, investigation and trial” of cases, reports Indian Express.
The latest version of the Bill provides for greater, almost unchallenged role of the Central government in checking communal violence in states, stricter punishment for those responsible for outbreak or spread of communal violence and, finally, stricter punishment for government servants who either support those responsible for the violence or fail to discharge their duty effectively in the event of outbreak of communal violence.
The Bill has been redrafted after the intervention of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi who wanted inclusion of more stringent clauses in the Bill, which was first drafted in 2005, introduced in Parliament in November 2005 but later withdrawn.
The UPA government plans to introduce the redrafted Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The Indian Express accessed the latest draft which has been finalised recently and is likely to be taken to the Cabinet for approval soon. The Cabinet will have to clear 80 amendments to the earlier version of the Bill before it is introduced in Parliament.
The redrafted Bill says:
An officer, who is authorised to prevent and/or control communal violence, will be punished with imprisonment up to three years plus fine if he or she exercises the authority in a malafide manner or willfully refrains from using the authority vested in him or her.
A public servant who is found guilty of having indulging or supporting communal violence will be punished with a prison term of not “less than three years”.
In case, fair trial in cases of communal violence is not possible in the same area where the incident has taken place, the government will be entitled to request the High Court to transfer the trial to another “judicial zone” of that state.
The onus of constituting a unified command, which will deal with communal violence in states, will be on the Centre. The earlier Bill was for empowering both the Centre and the respective state government to set up the unified command.
Revised Bill empowers victims of communal violence
It will be mandatory for the state government to declare any area “communally disturbed area” and constitute such an area into a single judicial zone or zones if it is of the opinion that communal violence has gripped that area.
Every state government will have to establish a State Communal Disturbance Relief and Rehabilitation Council, which will be headed by the state Home Minister.
Of the five members of different religions who will be nominated by the state government to the Council, one will compulsorily be a woman.
Among other things, Sonia Gandhi had suggested that the Bill should have a comprehensive definition of communal violence and what constitutes it. She had also pointed out that some clauses of the earlier Bill were weak. Critics of the earlier Bill, which was cleared by the Cabinet in December 2009, had argued that it would be unable to effectively check outbreak of communal violence and punish those responsible for it.