Repackaging anti-terror laws
In line with its commitments under its prevailing political dogma, the Indian government has decided to repeal the tough anti-terror law introduced by the previous government. But the ‘sting’ will be inserted into a older act aimed at tackling all sorts of unlawful activities.
Unlike the stealth mode in which these changes are intended to be introduced, the government must not fight shy of applying the (new) provisions of the statute where it is demanded, notwithstanding the various political exigencies it may face.
Although POTA lapses on October 24, 2004, the UPA government wants to score a political point by repealing the Act as it promised in its Common Minimum Programme.
But that this was easier said than done became evident when it was pointed out that there is no law in the country that ‘‘defines’’ a terrorist and tackles the ‘‘funding of terrorism.’’ Besides Home Ministry officials, the need to have a law to tackle terrorism was also raised by Leader of Opposition L K Advani.
Sources said the government has plans to add the definition of terrorist (Clause 3 of the POTA) and ‘‘fund raising for a terrorist organisation to be an offence’’ (Clause 22 of POTA) in the Unlawful Activities Act so that all the relevant supporting clauses are included in the amended 1967 legislation. The 1967 Act was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in September 1969.
While the government plans to drop the draconian police powers (confessions made to a police officer under certain conditions admissible in court), it plans to amend the Unlawful Activities Act so that the minimum penalty for a crime associated with terrorism is three years of imprisonment. The minimum penalty in the 1967 Act is one year though crime under POTA was punishable with an imprisonment for a term that could be extended to life. [IE]