The opposition on Wednesday scuttled the introduction of the controversial Communal Violence Prevention Bill in the Rajya Sabha, contending that Parliament does not have the competence to legislate this law, as it will violate the spirit of Federalism.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien ruled that the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014, stands deferred in view of the "mood of the House" after the move was opposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Samajwadi Party.
Before the deferment, the House saw an animated brief debate on whether Parliament had the jurisdiction to enact such a bill with Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, both noted lawyers, sparring on the issue.
Jaitley contended that Parliament has no legislative competence to enact such a law and it will violate the spirit of federalism.
Countering him, Sibal insisted that the federal structure was not being violated and any Central action under the bill would be with the consent of the state government.
Raking up the Gujarat riots issue, he said such a bill was necessary for Central intervention in the event of "state-sponsored communal activity...it is like it happened in Gujarat".
"If a state itself is indulging...if it is state-sponsored communal activity, then it is not a law and order issue...Like what happened in Gujarat is not a law and order issue," he said, adding that even in that scenario the power to investigate is still with the state government.
He insisted that there is no provision in the bill, which directly or indirectly interferes with law and order position in the state, which is the state's responsibility.
Jaitley said, "The central government has absolutely no jurisdiction in bringing such a bill...This bill is entirely beyond the legislative competence of Parliament...I am all the more convinced that objections raised by opposition has all the more substance."
The issue brought archrivals -- the Left and Trinamool Congress -- also together with the later accusing the United Progressive Alliance II of "butchering" the concept of federalism.
Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M said when the very legislative competence of the Centre is questioned, the bill cannot be introduced. "Without settling it, even the discussion on it will ultra vires of Constitution," he said.
TMC’s Derek 'O' Brien said, "The UPA has butchered the concept of federalism" saying the question is the competence of the central legislature to encroach upon the rights of the state.
V Maitreyan of the AIADMK said various chief ministers had opposed some of the provisions but despite that they have not been sorted out and "modifications brought in the bill are only cosmetic".
"The law and order is a state subject. The central government has no power...we strongly oppose the bill," he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal supported him.
Under attack from Left, Right and Centre on the issue, the government fielded the law minister to answer the questions about legislative competence raised by the parties. However, the opposition members asked as to what rule Sibal, who is not a member of Rajya Sabha, could speak on the issue.
Kurien, however, said that the law minister has a right to speak since the question that has been raised is about legislative competence. As members from the BJP, AIADMK and other opposition parties continued to oppose, Sibal asked, "Are you worried about my response".
Rejecting contentions that the bill was "encroaching upon the rights" of states, Sibal said the central government has been very careful in drafting the bill and it incorporates no provision that gives power to the Centre to interfere with law and order.
He said there is only section in the bill, which has such a provision but "with concurrence with state government" adding that even this power has been given to National Human Rights Commission and not to any central government officials.
"And this too, after the concurrence of the state government," he said, drawing parallel of this provision with the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act through which the Central Bureau of Investigation derives its powers.