Two years ago, the National Advisory council headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi submitted a draft bill known as ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations ) Bill’. This draft Bill was put on the net for consultation. I had written a strong critique of this bill amongst others on the ground that ‘law and order’ and ‘public order’ are State subjects and that the Parliament by enacting such a law would be encroaching on the domain of the States. The Bill was highly discriminatory since it discriminated against the majority and minority on basis of birth marks. It gave unguided power to authorities proposed to be created and loaded the redressal and accountability mechanism in favour of one community against the other on the basis of religion. In the meeting of the National Integration Council held in 2011, Chief Ministers cutting across party lines opposed this Bill on the ground that it would be destructive of the federal structure of the Constitution.
It appears that on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, in order to polarize the country on communal lines, the Ministry of Home Affairs has again written a letter to the Sate Governments enclosing therewith revised draft of the Bill. There hasn’t so far been adequate consultation with the stakeholders.
Yesterday on 2nd December 2013 Dr. J Jayalalithaa, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu has written a detailed letter to the Prime Minister voicing her strong opposition to this draft. The AIADMK leaders mentioned this in the All Party Meeting convened by the Government on the eve of the Parliament winter session. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has reiterated her opposition to this Bill. The letter mentions that ‘law and order’ and ‘public order’ are State subjects and several provisions of this Bill encroach on the federal structure of the Constitution. She has further mentioned that the provisions of this Bill were vague and could be subjected to serious abuse. She believes that the changes in the earlier Bill are cosmetic at the best and are highly objectionable. She reiterates that the words “ hostile environment” has been defined as “ creating an intimidating , hostile or offensive environment.” This itself could be subjected to different interpretations. She has stated that the manner in which Public Servants also could be targeted under this Bill may render their functioning almost impossible while trying to grapple with communally sensitive situations. The authorities sought to be empowered under the new draft could interfere in the functioning of the State Governments thereby undermining the relevance of the elected Governments. She concludes by stating that “However, the Government of India has been increasingly taking ill-advised, counter-productive and unilateral approach of attempting to create top-down structures and parallel authorities that encroach upon the constitutional domain of the State Governments”.
Even though the draft Bill has not been made public as yet, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has done well to initiate a Public debate on this issue. Her views appear to be logical, reasonable and in consonance with the federal structure of the Constitution.