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'New bill on terror law has enough safeguards'

india Updated: Dec 17, 2008 19:07 IST

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Contending that the bill to amend law for fighting terrorism has adequate safeguards, government on Wednesday said it represents a "fair balance" with respect for fundamental rights without compromising the ability of a federal agency to tackle the menace effectively.

Moving for passage of the two bills for setting up of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and amending of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in the Lok Sabha, Home Minister P Chidambaram said provisions in the proposed legislations were quite different from the erstwhile POTA.

On the provision for enhanced duration of detention of an accused without bail, Chidambaram said extra time is needed in terror-related cases as it is not possible to complete investigations early.

On the provision for detention of an accused, he said it was "up to" 180 days and an accused could be released on bail earlier depending on the courts which have powers to decide.

He said for extending the detention period, the court has to be convinced that the investigation is making progress.

"It is an exceptional situation," he added.

Drawing a comparison with POTA, he said under that law, the public prosecutor had been given the overriding powers, which was not true in the present case.

Chidambaram said supposing there was no progress then the courts could release him. POTA gave an extraordinary weightage to the word of the public prosecutor.

"The court can deal with the bail application but not without giving an opportunity to the prosecution," he said referring to the provision in the UAPA.

On the presumption of offence, a rebuttable provision has been introduced in the UAPA that the court could make such an inference under certain circumstances.

Under the bill, if finger prints, blood stain, DNA and weapons of offence are recovered from the crime scene, it will be the first duty of the Court to presume the offence while it will be the second duty of the accused to provide contrary evidence.

Where there is definitive evidence suggesting involvement of the accused, the courts can presume he is guilty, he said adding in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi many of the accused escaped because of lack of such a provision.

This will apply to the special courts to be set up under the NIA, the Home Minister said, adding high courts and the Supreme Court would not be bound by this.