The Centre decided on Friday to advise President Pratibha Devisinh Patil to return Gujarat’s proposed anti-terror law, Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill, after striking out three provisions.
The provisions seek to make confessions before a police officer admissible in courts as evidence, besides making it impossible for a court to grant bail if the public prosecutor opposes it.
The Centre’s move practically sealed the fate of the law that bore a striking resemblance to the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and was once positioned as Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s response to the Congress move to repeal the Pota.
Union Home Minister Chidambaram, however, said the decision to return the Bill had been taken to make it conform to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which was amended by Parliament last year. However, he did not specify the third amendment.
The Gujarat government reacted angrily. “This is nothing but vote-bank politics of the Congress party. It proves they are not bothered about the security of the nation,” Amit Shah, Gujarat MoS for home, told HT.
This is the second time that the Home Ministry has asked the Gujarat government to amend the law. The first version was passed in 2003 when the National Democratic Alliance was in power in Delhi.
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam returned the Bill with the advice to delete the provisions that gave blanket powers to District Collectors and Superintendents of Police to tap phones.
It was passed the second time in June 2004 – around the same time that the first United Progressive Alliance government was settling down.
“It is unfortunate that the Centre, instead of supporting a Bill that is meant to protect the Gujaratis from various threats (terrorism) chose to return the Bill over some frivolous, technical grounds after keeping it for more than four years,” Jay Narayan Vyas, Gujarat cabinet minister and spokesperson of the Modi government said.
The Gujarat Congress took the middle path on the issue. “We would like the Bill to come into existence, but we only want a proper discussion,” Arjun Modhwadia, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson and former leader of opposition in the assembly, said.