Governments have limitations in restraining "non-state actors", Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan said on Saturday in the context of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
"Yet another practical constraint that has been brought to the fore with the Mumbai attacks has been the question of holding governments responsible for the actions of non-state actors," sad Balakrishnan, addressing a conference on terrorism and human rights.
"While one can say that there is a moral duty on all governments to prevent and restrain the activities of militant groups on their soil, the same is easier said than done," added the chief justice.
The chief justice addressed the conference shortly before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his inaugural address urged "governments and authorities in our region" to act firmly and quickly" against terrorists.
While India has maintained the 10 terrorists who struck Mumbai had come from Pakistan, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has termed them as non-state actors.
Balakrishnan argued: "Several terrorist groups are able to organise financial support and procure weapons even in Western nations where it is perceived that policing and criminal justice systems are relatively stronger than the subcontinent."
The chief justice made the observations while dealing with various possible legal responses to the "doctrinal and practical challenges" posed to the international legal community by the phenomena of terrorism.
The chief justice censured TV news channels for round-the-clock, unfettered coverage of the terrorist attack and the ensuing hostage crisis saying it might provoke desire for retribution amongst common masses against a particular community.
"I must state that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by the role of pervasive media coverage," he said, adding: "One of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage is that of provoking anger amongst the masses.
"While it is fair for the media to prompt public criticism of inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility of such resentment turning into an irrational desire for retribution," said the chief justice.