Thursday, 18 August 2011

Public Order bill withdrawn


 State govt heeds Raj Bhavan advice

Pappu Mallick

GANGTOK, August 16: Under fire from opposition political parties and widespread concerns among the civil society on the introduction of ‘Sikkim Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill’ since August 11 which culminated in a prod from the Raj Bhavan, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government today announced to withdraw the controversial legislation already dubbed as a ‘black bill’ by the opposition political parties.
            “The Sikkim Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill, 2011, Bill No. 10 of 2011, which had been introduced in the Assembly on 11th August 2011 has been decided to be withdrawn by the Government as per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly”, reads a one-sentence press statement from the State Information & Public Relations department issued today late in the afternoon.
            The bill had been tabled in the Assembly by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling in his capacity as the home minister and was scheduled to be discussed and voted on April 26 in the Assembly whose all the 32 seats belongs to the ruling SDF party.
The bill seeks to provide a special law to address social vices and offences being committed disturbing public order which effect peace and tranquility in Sikkim and states that ‘holding of processions or hunger strikes or squatting, or shouting of slogans or waving of black flags or such other agitational methods, having tendency or the potentiality of promoting enmity or hatred or disaffection between groups or sections or communities on grounds of religion, race or caste shall be deemed to be disturbance of public order’. Conviction under these offences by a special trail court proposed to be set up in all the four districts will lead to minimum five years imprisonment along with Rs. 50,000 fine.
            The opposition political parties including the State units of BJP, Congress and CPIM had been jointly expressing their outrage of ‘violation of fundamental rights of citizens to express their dissent as allowed in a democracy’ and had demanded withdrawal of the bill besides a swift intervention from Governor BP Singh.
The opposition political parties boycotted yesterday’s ‘high tea’ invitation from Raj Bhavan on Independence Day celebrations to register their protest against the bill and to demand its withdrawal. On Sunday, regional political party Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad (SHRP) party supporters had torched the effigy of Chamling in protest against bill.
            A one sentence press statement from the Raj Bhavan yesterday informs that the Governor ‘advised the State government to withdraw the Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 11th August, 2011’.
            The two press statements issued yesterday and today by the Raj Bhavan and State government follows a meeting of the Governor and Chief Minister yesterday, first during the Independence Day football tournament final at Paljor Stadium and later at the ‘high tea’ party at Raj Bhavan in the afternoon hours.
            It is understood that Chamling had previously discussed about the rising opposition on the bill with his cabinet colleagues and senior government officials and continued the discussions with the Governor also when the duo shared dais at Paljor Stadium and Raj Bhavan.
            Immediately after the tea party ended at around 6:30 pm and the guests left Raj Bhavan, the press release was issued by the Raj Bhavan informing about the Governor’s advice to the State government to withdraw the bill.
            The opposition political parties here have asserted that their ‘protest’ will continue until the bill is formally withdrawn in the Assembly on August 26.
            “We do not believe the State government until and unless the bill is withdrawn in the Assembly on August 26. Our opposition to the bill continues and we will continue our protest”, said Sikkim National People’s Party (SNPP) president Biraj Adikhari after a meeting of all the opposition political parties in Gangtok.
            “We will give recognition to the State government’s press statement of today on the bill only when the Chief Minister formally withdraws the bill on August 26”, said State BJP president Padam Chettri.
            The opposition parties have decided to send a representation to the President of India tomorrow expressing their concerns on the bill.
            Meanwhile, a Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee (SPCC) press release informs that a party delegation led by its acting president Kunga Nima Lepcha called on the Governor today morning and submitted a memorandum requesting immediate withdrawal of the Sikkim Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill.
During the course of discussion the members of the delegation apprised the Governor about the intent of the Bill and prayed for prevailing upon the State Government for immediate withdrawal of the Bill for the sake of protecting democracy, the release states. The SPCC team also questioned the necessity for such bill when the SDF government is pressing for a Peace Bonus with the Centre. The Governor gave patient hearing to the delegation and assured that the democracy will be protected at all cost, the release states.

Short But Fiery Stay of ‘Prevention and Control of Disturbance of Public Order Bill’
Aug 11: Chamling tables the Bill in the Assembly. Speaker announces that the Bill will be discussed and voted on August 26. Opposition political parties give a furious reaction and dub it as ‘Black Bill’.
Aug 12: Opposition political parties jointly announce to launch a protest movement against the Bill. Boycott of Raj Bhavan invitation on Independence Day is also announced.
Aug 14: SHRP torches Chamling’s effigy at Gangtok to protest against the Bill.
August 15: Governor BP Singh advices State government to withdraw the Bill.
August 16: State government announces to withdraw the Bill.