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India needs potent anti-terror laws and fast-track courts

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 18:10 IST
Highlight Story

The very fact that terrorists' victims are innocent civilians is a sufficient condition for the democratic world to enact extraordinary laws. The global nature of the problem requires sovereign nations to learn from others' experiences rather than waiting for similar tragedies to strike at home.

The following points summarise some of the crucial issues before the legal community.

Anti-terrorism legislation

A comprehensive law is an essential component of any counter-terrorism strategy. Post 9/11, the US enacted the PATRIOT Act which gives extensive powers to law enforcement agencies dealing with terrorists and brings them to justice within two months.

The UK Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act authorises officials to suspend the terrorism suspects' right to a fair trial guaranteed under European law, making it the only nation in the EU to do so. In the want of a long-term antiterror law, India manages its internal security challenges largely through knee jerk crisis management.

In 1985 the government enacted TADA but it was allowed to lapse a decade later. In 2002 the BJP government enacted POTA, but the UPA government repealed it and came out with an amended version of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. India needs both an effective legislation as well as fast-track courts to expedite terrorism related cases.

Money laundering laws Combating terror funds is the top priority for the US government. Their intelligence agencies, though the PATRIOT Act, have access to all financial institutions' records. This has enabled them to freeze accounts of suspected terrorists worth $150 million till now.

At home the Centre last year passed the Prevention of Money Laundering Act making it mandatory for banks to report all transactions above Rs 10 lakh to the Financial Intelligence Unit. But till now only 12 out of 80 banks in the country have reported such transactions, as most of them do not have a centralised core banking system. Obviously, something needs to be done before it is too late. Regulating Madrasas Britain, post 7/7, has made it mandatory for all madrasas to register with the government and furnish details of their funds on a quarterly basis.

The madrasas in India are a sensitive topic. Recently, the National Commission for Minority Education Institutions recommended that all madrasas be brought under a central board. But Muslim religious leaders running them have opposed it. Anti-immigration law Illegal migration from Bangladesh has long been a cause of concern. Till last year India had two anti-immigration laws. The Centre in 1983 enacted the Illegal Migrant Determination by Tribunal Act (IMDT) applicable only for Assam.

In other states, detection of foreigners is done under the Foreigners Act, 1946. Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving one's nationality lies on the complainant. Though the Supreme Court last year scrapped the IMDT Act, the government is considering amending some parts of the Foreigners Act for Assam. We need to tighten our immigration controls on the lines of the US Immigration and Naturalisation Services Act.

The very fact that terrorists' victims are innocent civilians is a sufficient condition for the democratic world to enact extraordinary laws. The global nature of the problem requires sovereign nations to learn from others' experiences rather than waiting for similar tragedies to strike at home. The following points summarise some of the crucial issues before the legal community.

Anti-terrorism legislation

A comprehensive law is an essential component of any counter-terrorism strategy. Post 9/11, the US enacted the PATRIOT Act which gives extensive powers to law enforcement agencies dealing with terrorists and brings them to justice within two months.

The UK Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act authorises officials to suspend the terrorism suspects' right to a fair trial guaranteed under European law, making it the only nation in the EU to do so. In the want of a long-term anti- terror law, India manages its internal security challenges largely through knee jerk crisis management.

In 1985 the government enacted TADA but it was allowed to lapse a decade later. In 2002 the BJP government enacted POTA, but the UPA government repealed it and came out with an amended version of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. India needs both an effective legislation as well as fast-track courts to expedite terrorism related cases.

Money laundering laws

Combating terror funds is the top priority for the US government. Their intelligence agencies, though the PATRIOT Act, have access to all financial institutions' records. This has enabled them to freeze accounts of suspected terrorists worth $150 million till now.

At home the Centre last year passed the Prevention of Money Laundering Act making it mandatory for banks to report all transactions above Rs 10 lakh to the Financial Intelligence Unit. But till now only 12 out of 80 banks in the country have reported such transactions, as most of them do not have a centralised core banking system.

Obviously, something needs to be done before it is too late.

Regulating Madrasas

Britain, post 7/7, has made it mandatory for all madrasas to register with the government and furnish details of their funds on a quarterly basis. The madrasas in India are a sensitive topic. Recently, the National Commission for Minority Education Institutions recommended that all madrasas be brought under a central board.

But Muslim religious leaders running them have opposed it.

Anti-immigration law

Illegal migration from Bangladesh has long been a cause of concern. Till last year India had two anti-immigration laws. The Centre in 1983 enacted the Illegal Migrant Determination by Tribunal Act (IMDT) applicable only for Assam. In other states, detection of foreigners is done under the Foreigners Act, 1946. Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving one's nationality lies on the complainant.

Though the Supreme Court last year scrapped the IMDT Act, the government is considering amending some parts of the Foreigners Act for Assam. We need to tighten our immigration controls on the lines of the US Immigration and Naturalisation Services Act.

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