A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a federal crime agency to battle terrorism following serial bomb blasts in Jaipur, the Bharatiya Janata Party said it would be of little use unless backed by a very strong anti-terror law.
Unwilling to show that the party was altogether against a federal agency, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said it was willing to discuss the issue provided the government was willing to strengthen the law.
“Our anti terrorist laws will have to be made more effective and POTA will have to be re-introduced,” Jaitley said in a statement, referring to the Prevention of Terrorism Act that allowed authorities to detain suspects for long periods without bail. Jaitley piloted POTA when he was the law minister. The law was enacted in 2002, but was repealed when the UPA government led by Singh won power two years later.
The Congress party is on a back foot after last week’s blasts in Jaipur that killed 66 people and wounded about 150. The BJP, which has consistently accused Singh and his government of being soft on terrorism, sees the PM’s call for a federal agency as a quick counter offensive.
The BJP is trying hard to make terrorism one of the central issues in forthcoming elections for Parliament as well as in the states, including Rajasthan where it rules.
Jaitley said the PM's proposal for a federal agency did not hold water since several state governments, mostly those ruled by the Congress, had opposed it whenever the inter-state council or the home ministry mooted it in the past.
“What is relevant is not merely who investigates the offence but also what is the content of the law under which the offence is investigated. The PM, his government and the Congress party have consistently opposed a strong anti terror law.
“Will not the federal agency be helpless in investigating terrorist crimes if confessions of terrorists are inadmissible evidence and an easy bail is available to the terrorists under normal law?” Jaitley asked.
Jaitley wondered what had stopped Singh for four years from waking up to the fact that prevention and investigation of terrorism was on the verge of a collapse.
“His government is not serious in fighting terrorism,” he said. Jaitley also accused the UPA government of "deliberately" not giving Presidential assent to three BJP-ruled states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat — to operationalise the laws against organised crimes, while such laws are operational in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh (both ruled by Congress) and Karnataka.