Sunday, January 05, 2014

No need for communal violence Bill, amend IPC to make officials criminally responsible: ex-Gujarat DGP

By Our Representative
Former director general of police (DGP) of Gujarat, PGJ Nampoothari, better known as human rights champion, has stirred the hornet’s nest by sounding a different chord from the civil society by declaring that “there is no need” for a separate anti-communal violence Bill, which the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has been contemplating since 2004, and whose draft was made public for discussion in 2011. Known as the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, Nampoothiri believes that, instead of introducing the Bill, all that one needs to do is to “make government officials in charge to be made criminally responsible for failure to control riots.”
“I can tell you from my own experience that there, if the officials in charge of discharging their duties are made criminally responsible for communal riots, the riots will never take place. All that one needs to do is to amend the current Indian Penal Code (IPC), in which officials responsible for dereliction of duty are prosecuted. The punishment should be serious enough to deter officials from doing anything that would lead to escalation of the communal riots”, Nampoothiri said, talking with Counterview, adding, “There should be no need to seek sanction to prosecute officials, either.”
Nampoothiri, who was associated with the National Human Rights Commission between 2002 and 2007, monitoring aftermath of the Gujarat communal riots, said, “It is sad that the anti-communal violence Bill has acquired a political dimension. To avoid such political overtone, the best option before the government would be amend the IPC. In fact, the UPA government could have easily pushed through such an amendment without a hitch during its honeymoon period, after it won polls in 2004, or later in 2009. But, sadly, it kept things lingering, and allowed things to go political.”
Nampoothiri’s remark is significant, as comes close on the Government of India considering to dilute the prosecution clause of the anti-communal violence Bill, in which government officials, who refuse to obey an “unlawful” order of their superiors during communal violence cannot be held responsible for dereliction of duty. The new draft was reworked about a month ago, and there is considerable uncertainty if the UPA will place it before Parliament. “I have my own doubts if the UPA will dare to place the Bill in Parliament because of the political controversy it has acquired”, the ex-IPS officer, who retired from service in 1998, said.
The new draft of the Bill is said to have made several changes in the Bill that was worked out in 2011. The changes in the Bill were sought close on the heels of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi moved to say that the Bill seeks to take away the states’ powers. Buckling under political pressure, the UPA diluted the provision making the district magistrate responsible for declaring a particular area as communally disturbed and calling Central forces to intervene. It also brought down the maximum penalty for death caused by communal violence — from the Rs 15 lakh proposed to Rs 7 lakh.
The Bill’s fresh changes, which have still not been made public, say that though the new draft finalized by the Union home ministry holds bureaucrats and government officials responsible for all acts of omission and commission during riots, it has made an exception for babus who stand up to unlawful orders by their superiors. According to reports, under the proposed law, any official who exercises the authority vested in him colourably or in a manner likely to lead to riots, or screens a person from legal punishment, or fails to prevent commission of communal violence, shall be guilty of dereliction of duty "provided that the refusal by an official to obey an unlawful order to perform an unlawful duty is not dereliction of duty".

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