Action has been initiated on making the Communal Violence Bill a law to protect minorities from targeted attacks, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Monday said, but was not sure if it will be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament.
"I have sought details of the bill from the concerned department," he told reporters in New Delhi.
Asked whether the bill will be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament, expected to begin by November-end, Shinde said he was not sure. "But yes, work has started on it," he said.
Officials in the home ministry and the law ministry have, however, reportedly objected to certain clauses in the draft bill, including responsibility of bureaucrats if communal violence erupts, saying these were obstructionists in performing normal duties.
The draft bill largely sticks to the provisions in the 'Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011' prepared by Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council.
It proposes to impose duties on the Centre and state governments and their officers to exercise their powers in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence against religious or linguistic minorities, SCs and STs.
The bill also proposes constitution of a body -- National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation – by the Centre to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under this Act.
Sources said there have strong objections from some state government on setting up of such a "supervisory body".
The law ministry is said to have favoured further strengthening of the provisions of the Bill without any infringement on the powers vested in state governments.
"We have to have more consultations. More discussions are also required with the state governments which are major stakeholders in any disturbing situation," an official said.
The consultation process may take time as most of the non-Congress state governments are vehemently opposed to many provisions in the Bill.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has strongly opposed the proposed legislation and termed it as "dangerous", saying it will harm the federal structure of the Constitution. It has also questioned as to how the Bill could presume that the majority community is always responsible for riots.
The proposed legislation is also likely to face opposition from Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Biju Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Akali Dal which are in power in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Punjab respectively.
The Bill also provides for transfer of cases outside the state concerned for trial and take steps to protect witnesses, sources said.
The measure was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2005 and subsequently referred to the department related Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The committee submitted its report in 2006 and notices were given in March 2007, December 2008, February 2009, December 2009 and again in February 2010 in Rajya Sabha for consideration and passage of the Bill.
It, however, could not be taken up on any of these occasions.
Thereafter, several suggestions from civil society groups were received and examined. Finally, the NAC said in July 2010 that there was a need to revise the law to deal with communal violence. It worked on a draft bill and submitted it on July 25, 2011 to the Home Ministry.