SC asks government about steps taken to protect northeast people

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Friday sought to know the government’s response about the steps taken for making racial violence a penal offence.

The apex court sought to know about the steps taken for effectuating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965 which India signed 47 years ago in 1968 and the steps to make racial attacks an offence under IPC.

Support TwoCircles

The apex court social justice bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit sought to know the government’s response as counsel Arunabh Chaudhary told the court that the M.P.Bezbaruah committee that had gone into the issue has recommended putting in place clear and stringent laws that make it a punishable offence.

The Bezbaruah committee was set up by the union home ministry on February 5, 2014, to suggest “suitable remedial measures” which could be taken in the wake of attacks on the people from the northeast in the national capital and other parts of the country including the death of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh.

Advocate Arunabh Chaudhary, appearing for the petitioner Karma Dorjee and others, told the court that the Bezbaruah committee in its 2014 report had recommended suitable changes in Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code to curb and punish incidents of racial violence targeting people from the northeast region.

Section 153A of the IPC punishes acts of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.

The court sought the government’s response while hearing two PILs — one by Karma Dorjee, Gainilung Panmei, Pragya Baghel, Sarvesh Singh Baghel, Rahul Pratap, Vaibhav Tomar and Anirudh Singh and the other by Ranbir Yadav, Abhishek Garg and Baban Kumar.

“Incorporation of the law has to be done by the parliament. The government of India has to take steps. Parliament will not draft legislation,” the court told Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, as he told the court that the amendment to the IPC as recommended by the Bezbaruah committee has to be done by parliament.

“Forty seven years have gone since government of India signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” but what steps were taken for giving it a statutory shield, the court asked as additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said, “concept remain but there is no definition of offence though they are covered under Article 14 of the constitution” guaranteeing equality before law”.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination also mandates the signatory countries to put in place laws to curb and punish racial violence, the court was told.

Advocate Arunabh Chaudhary urged the court that it could frame guidelines to deal with racial attacks on the people from the northeastern states in the absence of a law as it had done earlier in the Vishaka guidelines to curb sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

Justice Lalit said the Vishaka guidelines were in the nature of administrative action to deal with the cases of sexual harassment at the workplace, but the courts could not issue guidelines that are statutory in nature and provide for penal punishment.

“While defining an offence and punishing someone, it has to be done by law”, the court said while not accepting the suggestion.

However, the court felt that there could be laws specifically addressing the offences of racial violence as in the case of SC/ST and women.

“Penal provision to deal with violence against women and SC/ST are there in the code but yet there are separate laws (for them),” the court pointed out as it gave the government four weeks to respond as directed by it.