05/24/2011, 00.00
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Central government to intervene against communal violence across the nation

by Nirmala Carvalho
The National Advisory Council approves a draft bill that would enable the central government to intervene in cases of communal violence. Parliament is expected to vote on the bill on Saturday. The “proposed legislation that purports to makes the executive more accountable and the judiciary prompt will act as a strong deterrent for those thriving on fomenting communal violence, particularly in the name of religion, caste and language,” the Bishops’ spokesman says.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – India’s central government will be able to intervene in cases of communal violence, or attacks against specific social or ethnic groups, by invoking Article 355 of the Indian Constitution, if the Communal Violence bill, drafted by the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Sonia Gandhi, is adopted by parliament.

The new bill would allow the federal govern to declare a state of “internal disturbance” in cases of communal violence and act accordingly based on the situation and the circumstances without waiting for state authorities.

According to Article 355, "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 would set up a national authority and adjunct state level authorities to oversee the implementation of the legislation. The seven-member national authority would be a minority-dominated body with four members from minority groups, half of them women.

Federal and state authorities will be empowered to take action on their own to quell communal violence. The bodies will have the power to investigate, call for evidence, search and seize as well as monitor the actions of public servants as well as their postings or transfers in places where communal violence has occurred or where it is anticipated.

District collectors, police commissioners as well the Union and State home ministries will share all advisories related to communal violence to the authority created under the bill.

In case of involvement of armed forces personnel in communal violence, the authority would deal only with the central government.

It is heartening to learn that the NAC, after having held a wide range of consultations with various stakeholders, has recently cleared the Communal Violence Bill,” said Fr Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), in an interview with AsiaNews. “If it is passed by parliament and becomes the law of the land, it will have far-reaching consequences against those who abet, aid and indulge in communal violence, which has been the bane of independent India.

Although we have a slew of laws that are meant to deal with the menace of communal violence, they have time and again proved to be ineffective since criminals have been exploiting many loopholes in them,” he added. “Therefore, the proposed legislation that purports to makes the executive more accountable and the judiciary prompt will act as a strong deterrent for those thriving on fomenting communal violence, particularly in the name of religion, caste and language.”

Under the existing federal system of governance, the States are conferred with the role and responsibility for maintaining law and order, but there have been too many instances where the States have either failed to act decisively or even abdicated responsibility of maintaining law and order, resulting in colossal loss of human life and property. Such tragedies must be averted in the future”.

Whilst there will be certain questions and shortcoming in the now NAC-approved Communal Violence bill, on the whole it needs to be welcomed by one and all,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, director of ‘Prashant’, the Ahmadabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

“It is something, especially after the Gujarat carnage, which several of us have been fighting for. Hopefully, it is finally in place. What is now needed is the political will to ensure its implementation. In no way, should it be allowed to become another ‘toothless tiger’.”

“Finally it brings a hope that communal violence will at least be curbed.very specially the State-sponsored ones in the country."

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