Bowing to the pressure from political parties and the states, the Centre has changed the character of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill from standing in nature to the one that would require to be invoked by a competent authority by declaring an area or district communally sensitive.
This, in short, means that the Centre, as feared by the states, could no longer call shots by declaring some area as communally disturbed and gives the power to the district magistrate and superintendent of the police to do so.
But at the same time, the draft bill proposes formation of a national commission and a state commission and gives them the power to inquire into complaints, seek reports from the states, investigate and appoint special judges to try communal violence cases.
The clause has been vehemently opposed by Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa for usurping executive and judicial powers of the states.
The legislation that the Centre is keen to introduce in the winter session of parliament proposes reparation or imposition of cost on states where communal clashes take place.
Until now, the Centre gives states money to undertake relief and rehabilitation measures in the aftermath of communal clashes. As per the bill, relief funds will be given to the states but would be deducted later from the receivables (taxes share) given to them.
The controversial clause was opposed strongly by several states, including Bihar, in the meeting called by union home secretary Anil Goswami to discuss the controversial bill. States said it would severely affect the relations of the states and the Centre as the provision holds the state responsible for the clashes.
Bihar representative Amir Subhani said that a bill having such serious repercussions should not be discussed at the level of home secretary but at the political level.
In another major change, the bill defines clashes between two linguistics groups belonging to the same religious group as a communal clash e.g. violence against workers from Bihar in Maharashtra by the same religious community. Earlier communal violence was defined as a clash between two religious communities.
Besides proposing breach of command responsibility where by officers will held responsible not only for acts of omission or commission by their immediate juniors but those down the chain as well, it also provides for breach of command for non-government bodies. This means that even political party leaders/chiefs can be held responsible if a party worker/s is found to be involved in incites communal clashes.
On seeing the opposition from the states, the union home ministry has asked the ministries of law, minority affairs and personnel to give their clause by clause views within a week.