New Delhi: In an interesting development UPA constituent Trinamool Congress joined the opposition ranks of NDA and non-UPA parties to condemn the "dangerous" communal violence bill drafted by the National Advisory Council (NAC) arguing that it would hurt the federal structure of the country.
At the 15th meeting of NIC, held after three years, the BJP expressed its firm opposition to the bill.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said the draft bill was dangerous.
"It not only usurps the power of the states, it encroaches on personal liberty and discriminates on the basics of caste and religion," he said in a note submitted to the NIC meeting.
Speaking to reporters, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said, “The draft bill does not consider anybody a citizen and treats a person only as one belonging to either a majority or a minority...It presumes that the majority community is unjust, and the minority community is the victim. But in our country, various sections of community are in a minority in one state and a majority in another state. The provisions of the Bill will go against the majority community in various states."
“We feel that the Communal Violence Bill is a dangerous Bill as it harms the federal structure of the Constitution. It allows the Centre to hold all the powers,” she added.
Echoing the same sentiment, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley said the legislation would encourage communalism rather than curbing it.
The chief ministers of three BJP-ruled states -- Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh -- echoed these sentiments at the NIC meeting.
Participating in the meeting, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan contended that the communal violence bill may encourage intolerance and harm federalism.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi kept away from the NIC meeting, apparently to register his opposition to the communal violence bill and to state Governor Kamla Beniwal appointing the Lokayukta without consulting his government.
The chief ministers of Bihar and Punjab which are being ruled by BJP’s allies also denounced the Bill and echoed the same sentiments.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) voiced concern that the Bill may create "impression" among the people at large that majority community is "always responsible for communal incidents."
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of Akali Dal said the bill could lead "to avoidable confrontation."
Surprisingly, leader of Trinamool Congress and Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said his party also opposes the Bill in its present form. Trivedi told reporters that West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who represented the state at the NIC meeting, opposed the provisions of the bill.
Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the Bill has some objectionable provisions that would affect the autonomy of states while the UP Chief Minister Mayawati faulted the Centre for seeking comments even without circulating the Bill.
Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa, too has opposed the bill, claiming that it infringed upon the states` powers and was against the spirit of the federal structure of India`s Constitution.
The Communist Party of India(Marxist) said in a statement that there was a need for a legislation that gives teeth to measures that need to be taken to curb communal violence but also said it should be in keeping with the federal principle as state governments have the primary responsibility for maintenance of law and order.
The party said the law should focus only on "communal violence" and not broaden itself to other forms of conflicts and violence.
Briefing reporters at the end of the meeting, Union Home Secretary R K Singh said government has taken note of the reservations from Chief Ministers who felt that it encroaches their jurisdiction.
"The Prime Minister said that we have taken note of the views expressed in the meeting. We will examine them and whatever bill we will bring, it will be in accordance with the constitution," the Home Secretary said.
The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Regulations) Bill, 2011 seeks to shift the focus from empowering the state to seeking action and accountability of public officials. It defines communal and targeted violence.
The NIC meeting comes in the backdrop of the terror strike in Delhi earlier this week that killed 13 people.
With Agencies inputs