People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 05, 2004



Wanted: Law To Combat Genocide And Mass Crimes


S K Pande


A GATHERING of legal experts, field activists, senior retired police officials and National Human Rights Commission members gave the call in Delhi on August 23 for enactment of a "Prevention of Genocide and Mass Crimes Bill 2004."  This, they asserted, was the need of the hour taking into account the tragic record of mass crimes in India and the fact that nearly 30 months after the genocidal violence that rocked Gujarat which has left deep scars, little has been done for the victims.


What took place was an interesting three day discourse on what are the possible ways that can help avoid another Gujarat (2002), to punish the guilty of Mumbai 1992-93 if it were to happen again and what could be effective and dignified restitution and reparation to victims of mass crime? It was the collective wisdom of the gathering that there is a deeper malady contained in our criminal justice system that is both technical and fundamental and needs to be addressed. And this can be delayed no longer. 




The gathering noted that it was indeed a sad reflection on the state administration of criminal justice that perpetrators of earlier mass massacres at Nelli (1983) Meerut (1982-87) Bhagalpur (1989) Mumbai (1992-93) or the perpetrators of violent attacks on dalits have gone unpunished.  Taking all these into account it was resolved that in the next fortnight a final draft of this citizens consultation would be circulated for public discussion.


The three day meeting in affect highlighted select salient features of a Draft Bill.  These are:

  1. It will be a Central Act.

  2. It will setup an authority to take cognizance of the crimes, to be composed of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and a serving or retired officers of the rank of the DGP.

  3. The body would have the authority to set up special courts to investigate crimes under the Act.

  4. The crimes defined under the Act are the act of genocide, crimes against humanity and the conspiracy, intent and abetment of these offences

  5. The specific sections that are exclusive to this legislation are that the Draft Act introduces the principles of vicarious criminal and administrative liability and also introduces the concept of command responsibility. These sections will ensure that both IAS/IPS officers in charge and the chief minister and his cabinet can be held responsible for the occurrence of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Prominent among those participating in the meeting were former Press Council chairman Justice P V Sawant, Justice Hosbet Suresh, senior advocates K G Kannabiran, Indira Jai Singh, Nitya Ramakrishnan, senior retired police officials, representatives of NHRC, Teesta Setalvad and Brinda Karat.


The meeting was organised by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Communalism Combat, Minorities Council and the Centre for the Study of Indian Muslims, Jamia Hamdard. The meeting came up with concrete suggestions.




A key suggestion was that a statutory Community Relations Commission (CRC) may be established at the national level comprising jurists, sociologists, historians and specialists in Conflict Resolution.  It was stressed that this would be a follow up and improvement of the National Integration Council, which was an adhoc body without any powers.  This commission was all the more necessary from the increasing difficulty of police not being able to take care of all possible situations in a country where processions - social, religious, cultural and political are integral part of public life.  The meetings felt that the carrying of lathis, spears, swords, daggers, tridents and other such material should in no case be allowed and requisite changes be made to the Indian Arms Act to regulate this increasingly worrisome practice that is in fact arming civil society.


Causing public nuisance through the use of loudspeakers should not be allowed in any procession which passes through residential areas, markets or busy public streets.  Provocative slogans and leaflets have been major source of friction among groups and communities.  The issuance of licence to take out processions should be subject to conditions including use of agreed non-provocative slogans, breach of which should be reason enough to declare the procession an unlawful assembly.  Monitoring hate writing and hate speech and negative communal stereotypes is a must. 


There was the feeling that the Police Act of 1861 should be replaced by the New Police Act. It was further observed that the major recommendations of the National Police Commission have remained unimplemented.

Taking in view of the recent experiences it has been stressed that as a follow-up of the National Police Commission, a composite cell may be constituted at the district level to enquire into complaints emanating from the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes, particularly those relating to lapses in administrative measures meant for relief. 


It was also noted that a vexing problem was non-registration of FIR's, with victims of crimes turned away from a police station on the flimsy ground often that the crime had occurred in the jurisdiction of another police station. A concrete suggestion was the establishment of an All India Police Institute on the lines of similar professional institutions such as those for engineers and chartered accountants. The meeting noted that there is political interference in police work, at times almost on a day to day basis. 


For the police it has been suggested there should be effective protection against whimsical and malafide transfer or suspension orders.  The removal of the police chief from his office before expiry of tenure should require approval of the State Security Commission.  Among other important things that have been suggested were forming of guidelines for avoidance of vexatious arrests and to ensure that harassment and humiliation prompted by malafide considerations are not there. 




It was suggested that clear-cut guidelines regarding use of handcuffs should be formulated.  For instance it is suggested that whenever any accused is handcuffed, the fact and the reasons should be stated in the Sentry Relief Book.  Further:" in no case should prisoners or accused persons who are aged and bedridden in hospitals or women or juvenile or civil prisoners be handcuffed or fettered. 


There was a general consensus that along with the campaign for the enactment of an Indian Law and punishment of Genocide and Mass Crimes, the national  campaign will also revive the issue of police reforms as recommended by the National Police Commission Reports from 1981-89, and lobby with political parties of all hues to introduce these immediately.


Among the issues raised around police reforms is the establishment of a Security State Commission as an independent authority for constituting and monitoring the structure and functioning of the police and to monitor it's transparent functioning as also reservations for minorities within the police force.




About the media too, there are clear recommendations coming from the meeting.  It is suggested that reporters, editors, printers and publishers should be advised to discourage tendentious reporting.  Action should be taken against writers and publishers of objectionable and inflammatory material aimed at inciting communal tension. The Press Council should be empowered to not only censure any erring newspaper/periodical but also to initiate legal proceedings against serious offenses, like the publication of fabricated stories that foment violence as admitted byr Editors' Guild Report into Gujarat Carnage, 2002. The stage is now set for an all India debate and follow up in Parliament of these suggestions. (INN)