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Milli Ittehad [December 2004]

 

 

 

Milli Council Press Meet on Communal Violence Bill and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill

Communal Violence Bill and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill

New Delhi, December 14 A press conference on the two Bills “Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005” and “Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) Bill 2008” was organized here today by the All India Milli Council (AIMC) at the Press Club of India. It was addressed by eminent legal expert and Bombay High Court senior advocate Yusuf Hatim Muchhala; AIMC General Secretary Dr Mohammed Manzoor Alam; and former Delhi Police official Mauji Khan. On this occasion, the following document was released:

Milli Council Demands Major Changes in Bills for Dealing with Communal Violence and Establishing Equal Opportunity Commission

The present Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre is all set to present also the Bills for dealing with communal violence and establishing Equal Opportunity Commission during the current session of Parliament. Therefore, this is high time these issues get our proper attention.

“Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005”

As we already know that a Bill on dealing with communal violence known as “Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005” was introduced in Rajya Sabha by the Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Shivraj Patil four years ago on December 5, 2005 and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for examination and report. The Bill went into controversy due to objections raised by the NGOs, activists, jurists, academics and others. Now the government proposes to present and get passed the Bill in Parliament with a few cosmetic changes. Therefore, we should see how some meaningful changes are made to remove the apprehensions of the people concerned and satisfy them before any move to get it passed.

The fact is that this time also, the Bill has no major deviation from the original draft. To put this Bill in perspective the words of former Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi needs mention here: “The Bill came to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha generating lots of hope. At the first blush it is indeed good news for all who have been fighting against the evil of communal violence, which erupts in our country at regular intervals. At the same time care must be taken to ensure that it is not viewed as a lip sympathy and does not turn out to be a mere paper tiger or a remedy worst than a disease, least a well intentioned piece of legislation does not get a bad name."

All India Milli Council (AIMC) feels if this Bill gets passed in its present form, it will be one of the most draconian laws of the time as it empowers the State than the victims and is full of loopholes, which cannot be omitted by mere amending it but would require a redrafting exercise.

Our country needs a comprehensive law to control, contain and abate communal violence but any law drafted and passed without any serious evaluation of the ever-growing communal hate in the country would be suicidal for democratic, secular and multicultural fabric of India.

This assumes significance at a time when recent government figures show alarming increase in communal violence with more than 3,800 such cases reported in the last five years. The year 2008 reported the highest number of communal incidents with most recorded from Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The data presented to the Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Maken, shows that at least two incidents of communal violence were reported everyday. The total number of communal incidents recorded from the year 2004-2008 was approximately 3,858. Of this, 677 were reported in 2004, 779 in 2005, 698 in 2006, 761 in 2007 and 943 in 2008.

“Equal Opportunity Commission Bill 2008”

So far as another Bill, described as “Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) Bill 2008” to end discrimination and provide equal opportunity to all, is concerned, it is in accordance with a suggestion made by the Sachar Committee, which had prepared a detailed report on the reasons for the backwardness among Muslims. Its draft was prepared by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), based on the recommendations of the expert committee, headed by Dr Madhava Menon and submitted to the Central Government more than a year back. It was under the process of inter-ministerial consultation during the previous term of the UPA Government.

The document rightly draws distinction between formal approach to the equality and substantive approach to equality to opportunities. It correctly points out that the Supreme Court has interpreted Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution and has spelt out rich dimension of Article 14 of the Constitution.

In 1976 the Supreme Court has in the case of State of Kerala versus N B Thomas unequivocally ruled: “The Guarantee of Equality before the law or Equal Opportunity in matters of employment is a guarantee of something more than what is required by formal equality. It implies differential treatment of persons who are unequal. Egalitarian principle has, therefore, enhanced the growing belief that Government has an affirmative duty to eliminate inequalities and to provide opportunities for the exercise of Human Rights and Claims.”

Having explained the constitutional philosophy of equality of opportunities, the document states that in view of the Globalization of our economy and reduction of the role of public sector undertaking in our economy, the role of the Government to provide employment is drastically reduced. In view of this, the document very forcefully advocates that EOC should have the power to issue direction to private sector also.

The document further advocates that EOC should only focus on two targets, namely education and employment. In other words, the document recommends that EOC should endeavor to provide health to the under-privileged section of the community by affirmative actions in the field of employment and education only. These are indeed welcome suggestions.

However, the All India Milli Council would like to draw the government attention towards the following points so that necessary amendments in the Bill are made before it is passed by Parliament. The document does not seem to be very much clear on the function of the EOC regarding redress of the grievances. Its recommendations on this count are contradictory, vague and even confusing.

In Part V of the document, it is stated that EOC should focus on advisory, advocacy and auditing function: and not to redress grievances. Then it goes on to state that EOC can enquire and provide relief when group dimensions are involved. The document states that the EOC should not entertain any individual grievance unless such individual grievance has group dimensions. Such distinction between individual grievances and grievances with group dimension is vague and no guide-lines are laid down to determine as to when an individual grievance will amount to group grievances.

Even in respect of group grievances, the document indicates that EOC should have merely the civil powers, not penal powers. Therefore, when even a direction/ advice/ order issued by EOC is not complied by the authority to whom the same is issued, the EOC will remain powerless to implement its own direction/ order.

Even on the issues relating to the policy formation by the Government, EOC will have merely advisory status. The document does not indicate whether or not such directions are binding on the Government. Therefore, EOC will not be able to play any effective role in formulating government policies for implementing affirmative actions to remove inequalities.

Therefore, it is advisable that the document should be redrafted on the pattern of the Equal Opportunity Commission in the United Kingdom.

    

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