The government is contemplating changes in the Constitution to obtain powers to deploy central forces in troubled areas in states. However, this would done only if political consensus was evolved on the issue and there would be no unilateral action upon it, according to Home Minister Shivraj Patil.
Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on demands for grants of his ministry, Patil made it clear that the government would not move ahead with the proposal unless there was consensus on it as the issue was very sensitive.
Such a move under Article 355 would minimise the possibility of using Article 356 to dismiss a state government on grounds of breakdown of constitutional machinery, including law and order, he told the House.
Under the provision, if Parliament was in session, its consent would be obtained before sending central forces to any state, the minister explained.
Besides, as an added safeguard, the measure would be undertaken only if a state failed to take action despite repeated central advice to control the law and order situation, he added.
Patil dismissed the Opposition charge that his government had failed to tackle extremism and insurgency in the country and turned it into a "soft state".
"We are neither hawkish nor soft. We are having a balanced approach... We will not be devilish in our approach," he said.
Earlier, the government came under a sharp attack from the BJP which accused it of failing to contain terrorist activity due to its soft policies. Initiating the debate, party leader Shahnawaz Hussain deplored that the government had withdrawn stringent anti-terror laws like POTA at a time when even nations like the US had enforced tough laws against terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11.
Leading the counter-attack, Congress member Madhusudan Mistry accused the previous NDA government of failing to curb terrorism in the country while pointing out that POTA was in existence when major terrorists strikes were carried out on Parliament and Akshardham temple. He also accused BJP-ruled states, particularly Gujarat, of giving a free rein to communal elements who attacked minorities.
The alleged fake encounters in Gujarat, particularly the latest one in which senior police officers have been accused of killing Sohrabuddin, figured prominently in the debate with members like Ramji Lal Suman (Samajwadi Party), Mohammad Salim (CPI-M) and Iliyas Azmi (BSP) expressing serious concern on the issue.
In his reply, Patil noted that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was improving and attributed this to factors like the state government’s efforts to bring people together, border fencing and round-table conferences on the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
On naxal menace, the Home Minister claimed that except in two states, the problem was not so severe as was being projected. As an example, he cited the case of Andhra Pradesh saying that naxalite activities had reduced in the state.
The Lok Sabha had been specially convened on Saturday, a holiday, to transact financial business. Making use of the guillotine provision, the House voted for demands for grants worth Rs 23,59,175 crore relating to various ministries without any discussion barring the ministries of Home and Science and Technology.