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Rights groups find shortcomings in bill against communal violence

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) Demanding penal action against government officials wherever communal clashes occur, jurists, lawyers and rights activists Saturday said if the proposed bill to tackle communal violence is not amended to include this provision, it would be ‘dangerous’ for society.

‘The need of the hour is to introduce stricter penal action against the government officials who actually sponsor these communal violence in the affected areas,’ advocate Vrinda Grover said, participating in the concluding day of the national consultation on the bill organised by NGO Anhad in collaboration with Oxfam at the Constitution Club.

‘Our law at this moment is so weak that people who go to courts for justice still do not get it as the officials against whom they seek action are at positions where nothing can be done without prior sanction,’ Grover added.

Social activist Farah Naqvi said: ‘It’s been more than four years this communal violence bill is pending. But if the bill is passed in such shape, then it will prove to be dangerous for victims.’

‘If the bill is passed in the present form then it will be a complete betrayal of faith placed by people on the government,’ Naqvi added.

The bill, which got the cabinet’s approval in December last year, is to be presented in parliament in March.

The panelists suggested that the bill should ensure accountability of the official or state powers, specifically acknowledge and provide for gender based violence, acknowledge rights of internally displaced persons, and also safeguard witnesses and provide legal aid as prescribed in a memorandum submitted to the government in November last year.

Over 50 experts on law and human rights issues took part in the consultation with the release of a document on the responses to the bill by the civil society participants.

Justice K.K. Uma, the first woman chief justice of the Kerala High Court, laid stress on the need for special and fast track courts for justice to the victims of communal violence.

The bill, which was first brought out as the Communal Violence (Suppression) Bill, 2005, had drawn severe flak and was replaced by the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005.

‘The communally disturbed area clause in the bill is not at all accepted. There is no measure for preventive measures,’ said Asghar Ali, who worked with victims of communal violence.

Ali also demanded that compensation to the victims be given according to the present price index.

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