The many faults of POTA’s detractors

Political correctness and lofty-softiness characterises its critics

The political detractors of POTA have their own agenda. But its detractors drawn from civil society suffer from a wooly-headedness that makes it lose a sense of proportion. A recent report by the Peoples’ Tribunal, a civil society group suggests that there were 1376 detainees under POTA as of January this year. The number of people killed by terrorists during the same period was much larger. The appropriate question for civil society groups to ask would have been to ask why POTA was not successful in reducing that number.

Frontline’s article on the report suggests that the People’s Tribunal sees two major faults in POTA – its abuse by various state governments, especially Jharkhand; and its apparent use to target a specific minority group (euphemism for Muslims).

More than 50% of the POTA detainees were in Jharkhand, which arrested 745 people under POTA related offences, and the People’s Tribunal alleges that most of these were fabricated and used to oppress innocent villagers. Even if this allegation turns out to be true, the Jharkhand governments’ excesses can hardly be good enough reason to call for the repeal of the law in other states, where the cancer of terrorism demands sterner measures.

The argument that POTA is used to victimise Muslims is based largely on political correctness; organisations with names such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed can hardly be expected to have Hindu, Buddhist or Christian members. Honesty would demand condemning the current wave of terrorism which is being carried out in the name of Islam. The purpose of POTA is to reduce the benefit of the doubt that traditional law gives to suspects; it is reasonable, but perhaps politically incorrect, to believe that there will be more Muslims in the ranks of the suspects and detainees. Unfortunately, political correctness too does not make a sound basis for a internal security policy.

In any case, the Cabinet has decided to repeal POTA but inject its spirit into an older and more general law.


The People’s Tribunal’s undoing is that it let itself become a vehicle for wimpish fellow travellers and self-promoters. Ram Jethmalani’s apology for helping POTA come into being cannot be taken seriously – as a veteran lawyer and legal luminary, he should have been aware of the scope for its abuse in the first place.

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