India will not go for a new anti-terror law but tweak the existing 1967 vintage Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to give the police more time to interrogate terrorists, investigate terrorist attacks and track emails.
A panel of bureaucrats headed by the National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan has turned down the recommendation of the Veerappa Moily-led Administrative Reforms Commission to amend the National Security Act, the 1980 law enacted to detain for a year miscreants suspected to be bent upon creating communal disharmony, social tensions and industrial unrest.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had handed over the Moily commission report to the expert group and asked them to come up with provisions to strengthen the anti-terror legal framework after the Delhi serial blasts.
Since then, Singh has emphasised on several occasions that the government needed to tighten “intelligence gathering and strengthen our investigation and prosecution processes”.
“We have examined the existing laws carefully and also the special laws enacted to counter terrorism – Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act and Prevention of Terrorism Act in the past. We found that there was no need for any fresh law,” a senior government official told HT.
The government was also studying the Information Technology Act 2000 to allow intelligence agencies to check unregulated use of electronic data by those indulging in acts of terror, said Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj.
A senior home ministry official said the panel also considered the demand to make confessions before a police officer admissible as evidence during trials with some safeguards.
“But there are genuine and credible fears that giving the police too many powers without a commensurate accountability could mean big trouble…. It was after all in Jharkhand, that the maximum number of cases were registered and people thrown behind bars,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Kapil Sibal, Science and Technology Minister agreed. “Even in the days of colonial rule, confession before the police was not considered as admissible evidence, why we want such laws now?” Sibal said.
Bhardwaj said the government had not been averse to revisiting the issue, but was strongly opposed to a new draconian law. “There have been large-scale cases of misuse of special anti-terror laws and that is why they had to be scrapped twice in the past. We are for strengthening existing laws, but strongly opposed to any new draconian provisions,” he said.