Lok Raj Sangathan participated in a Public Discussion on The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 on December 24, 2005, at the Deputy Speaker’s hall, Constitution Club, Rafi marg, New Delhi.
The meeting was chaired by Justice H. Suresh and assisted by Teesta Setalwad. The announced objective of the meeting was to get public opinion on the draft of the above bill that had been presented in the Rajya Sabha in this current session and had faced a lot of opposition. This draft has been claimed by the Home Ministry to be an improvement over the last draft proposed a few months ago. The government claims to have taken into account the proposals made by Justice Suresh, Justice Savant, Teesta Setalwad, Nitya Ramakrishnan and others in their draft for a law against genocide, which had been prepared and submitted in 2004. Justice Suresh pointed out that the bill in its present form does not substantially address the issues and concerns raised in drafting the proposals for the law against genocide and therefore, they propose to gather public opinion and make fresh proposals. The question of whether such a new law is necessary at all, was also raised.
Participants were given a copy of the bill tabled recently in the RS and a copy of the main points of contention raised by Teesta Setalwad and Justice Suresh. These include the issue of definition of ‘genocide’ to include all mass crimes against society, the issue of chain of command responsibility, constitution of a competent authority to judge on offences committed, mechanisms for courts to carry out enquiries independent of the government which is perceived to have organised or assisted in organising the communal violence, the overriding powers given to the state governments and the central government. Teesta Setalwad elaborated on these points, following the introduction by Justice Suresh.
Others who spoke included Supreme Court advocate W.A.Noorani, Retired IPS officer T.N.Mishra, CPM MP Nilotpal Basu, well known lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan, CPI MP Shahid, social activist and journalist John Dayal and Sucharita from Lok Raj Sangathan.
On behalf of Lok Raj Sangathan, Sucharita raised the need to approach this new legislation as a means to empower people who are opposing and working to put an end to state organised communal violence, not as a means to further empower the state, which as everyone knows, is the organiser of the communal violence and genocide. She spoke of the campaign of LRS to ‘punish the guilty’, various activities organised within this and the signature campaign on the petition, etc. The issue of mechanisms to empower people to fix command responsibility, starting from the top political leadership, should be seriously worked in. it was also essential to fully involve representative of people’s organisations in the composition of the ‘competent authority’, it was stressed.
Participating organisations were asked to send in their comments and suggestions within the next 15 days, to the above e-mail addresses, following which, within another 20 days, say by about mid February, the working group consisting of Justice Suresh, Teesta Setalwad, Nitya Ramakrishnan, John Dayal and others will circulate the revised proposals to all the senders. The process will be taken further.