July 7, 2011

Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011

The much discussed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill is in the news for all bad reasons in the media. Whereas the draft bill didn’t get the sufficient attention of the public at large (in caomparison to Lokpal Bill), the minority also remained untouched with the deliberations on the Act.

National Advisory Council (NAC) constituted five member Working Group for the draft of PCTV Bill, together with 24 member advisory group and 10 member Drafting Committee experts outside from NAC in August 2010. Working Committee presented its draft Bill to NAC on 28th April, 2011 from which, together with the recommendations received till June 4th, the NAC will recommend it to government.

In the bill communal and targeted violence is been described as
“communal and targeted violence” means and includes any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation;
Whereas the opposition is on the ground that the definition of the communal and targeted violence is largely reduced by the clause “which destroys the secular fabric of the nation”, the other side of the argument is the inclusive nature of the clause itself. The disputed clause is also very general in nature putting it very ambiguous as when it can be said that the secular fabric of the nation is destroyed. This clause, however also gives more power to Courts to interpret which through judicial activism may make it broad as there are equal chances of it getting broader as there are chances of it to be interpreted narrowly.

Clause 3(e) of the bill defines group as
“group” means a religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clauses (24) and (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution of India;
It is beyond the understanding why majority is not included in the clause. It is been evident that in the communal violence, the war is two sided and minority also prone to damage as the majority. This clause is providing insufficient protection to the citizens of the country.

The Bill provides extra power to the central government through clause wherein the communal violence is been given the status of “internal disturbance” under Article 355 of the Constitution and Central may take appropriate step in furtherance of the mandate of Constitution read with this Bill.

Despite the sufficient history and experience, the Bill is loosely drafted and is hit by the mire of internal disputes among the working group. ( Some members resigned in February on disagreements). The argument tken is that the Bill is providing State and National Authorities overblown powers which may hamper Human and Civil Rights of the Citizen of India during the Communal Violence. Whereas the argument seems valid the Bill, if enacted either will go through huge set of amendments or Judicial Activism for the ambiguity or the colorable terms it has.

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