The Centre has decided to move the Supreme Court against the apex court’s verdict last month that decriminalises ‘mere membership’ of terror outfits if investigators cannot prove the suspect’s role in violence or inciting others.
The home ministry’s decision comes in the backdrop of concern that reading down the law would end the powers to arrest terror suspects without substantial evidence against them.
Under the existing law, it is adequate if prosecutors can link the suspects to the banned terror outfits.
But last month, the Supreme Court read down provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) that prescribe jail for members of the banned outfits.
Mere membership of a banned organisation cannot incriminate a person unless he is proven to have resorted to acts of violence, incited people to violence or tried to create disorder ... of public peace through violence, the court held.
Applying this principle in two cases from Assam, the court held that the doctrine of “guilt by association” would violate constitutional guarantees of right to speech and liberty.
The Assam government — which lost two cases relating to men accused of being United Liberation Front of Asom members — has told the Centre that it would file review petitions.
But the home ministry also plans to involve itself in the case given the implication on the validity of the UAPA provisions that stipulate two-year jail for members of the 34 terrorist groups.
“The Union of India would also implead itself as part of the said petitions for review,” minister of state in the home ministry Gurudas Kamat told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, pointing that there was no proposal to amend the law in the light of the judgment “at this juncture”.
Senior police officers in the security establishment, however, are divided on the issue.