THE bill for creation of the National Investigation Agency and the
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, the two pieces of
legislation piloted by the Manmohan Singh government to combat
terrorism, was cleared by Parliament after the entire Opposition
pledged its support to the measures.
The BJP, which has campaigned relentlessly for a ‘tough law on terror’, extended its support to the government, even though, it claimed the present measure was only ‘half a step’.
Initiating the debate in the Rajya Sabha, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said: “Even though it is only half a step, as a nationalist party, we will support the government. We will continue to campaign for the other half.”
UPA’s handling of terror and its ‘unwillingness’ to enact a ‘tough terror law’ found a mention in the BJP leader’s speech. ``As the tenure of the UPA government comes to an end, it has brought these bills not out of any ideological conviction but because the 10 evil men who shook India on 26/11 have convinced every India that the battle against terrorism cannot be curtailed because of votebank considerations...Unfortunately for 95% of its tenure, the government was unwilling (to bring a tough law). It spent 95% of its tenure explaining why a strong terror law was not required. Battle against terror had to be diluted because of vote bank concerns.”
Perhaps to reiterate that the BJP was the party most clued into the needs of a country at the frontline of terror attacks, Mr Jaitley gave a clause-by-clause analysis of how provisions of the ‘horrible law’, Pota, had found way into the current legislation.
While reiterating his party’s serious commitment to dealing with terrorism, the former law minister outlined reasons as to why confessions made by terror accused to police should be made admissible in a court under the new law: “These two legislation are required but the measures which the government has adopted still fall short in fighting terror,” he said urging the government not to take an “incomplete step”.
Speaking for the Congress, Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought to wrest the authorship of the legislation for his party. Responding to Mr Jaitley, he suggested that the NDA had borrowed from the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act. Mr Singhvi sought to demonstrate that the government was not bringing back Pota under a different garb.
Among the differences, he highlighted the expanded definition of terrorism, “it has been made much larger and more comprehensive to include radioactive and nuclear material, hostage situation and damage to property, pressures on public functionaries.”
The Congress made it a point to stress on how bail provisions for aliens was much more stringent than for Indian nationals. Explaining the rationale of making confessions made to police officers inadmissible, the Congress leader said that this could be reconsidered once police reforms are in place. For the time being, he felt, the cost would outweigh the benefits.
The Left, which expressed reservations, moved three amendments to the legislation, even as it supported the two bills. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury demanded that the House return the bills for incorporating changes which would protect the individual and states’ rights in the investigation process. “You don’t compromise fundamental and human rights if you want to fight terror”. He also asked that the bills be referred to a standing committee, this especially as the home minister had said that the laws could be revisited in February, if these were being abused. “In that case send the bills to a standing committee at this stage... There is no need to hurry,” Mr Yechury said.
Expressing fears of misuse, Mr Yechury opposed the extension of detention period to 180 days from the current provision of 90 days. The CPM leader said nowhere in the world could an accused be detained for 180 days before a chargesheet is filed. It is maximum one day in Canada and 46 days in UK. If a chargesheet cannot be filed in 90 days, “we are giving the impression of being a weak state.” The other amendment sought by Mr Yechury was on the clause putting the onus of proving innocence on the accused. He described this as a reversal of jurisprudence.
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