The National Investigation Agency and a tighter anti-terror law will soon come into effect with Rajya Sabha giving its consent to the new arrangement on Thursday night after a seven-hour debate.
The new agency and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA) will become effective once the President signs the two Bills, which have now been passed by both Houses of Parliament. Lok Sabha passed the Bills on Wednesday. Cutting across party lines, all members supported the Bills. The Left wanted some changes, but its proposals were defeated.
“We’ve created a new, lean agency which would investigate eight terror-related offences and provisions of the UAPA would be applied for prosecution. Sufficient safeguards have been taken to prevent misuse,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in reply to the debate.
“Previous laws like TADA and POTA were punitive laws; if anyone thinks they were preventive they’re living in a make-belief world. The new agency would be able to act as a deterrent,” he said. The minister’s reply followed a lively debate that turned acrimonious at times and saw Kapil Sibal, Arun Jaitley and Abhishek Singhvi, all lawyers, make legal points.
Initiating the debate, the BJP’s Jaitley demanded stronger anti-terror laws and slammed the government for bringing in the two laws after “95 per cent of its tenure” was over. “What we’d been saying for four years and seven months has now been accepted. This proves objections to POTA were spurious and measures taken by the government are still not strong enough,” he said. The former law minister said the 10 “evil men” who attacked Mumbai forced the government to take steps that should’ve been taken much earlier.
The remarks were rebutted by Science and Technology Minister Sibal, who accused the BJP of “playing politics with issues concerning the country’s security”. He said the NDA had failed to set up a federal agency to deal with terror during its tenure. He also sought the BJP’s apology for accusing the UPA of making the country vulnerable to terror strikes.
Participating in the debate, the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury cautioned the government against making the laws too harsh. “The fight against terror cannot be won on the playground of politics and politicking. Unnecessary harassment only provides fertile ground for breeding terrorists,” he said.