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There is no substitute for hard evidence

Terror groups are thriving because our law enforcement and intelligence-gathering mechanism are lax.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2008 20:02 IST

The judiciary seems to be caught in two minds about banning the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), going by the ping-pong decisions coming out of courts. On Tuesday, a special tribunal of the Delhi High Court lifted the ban on Simi, saying that the government had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify continued curbs on the fundamentalist group. To recall, Simi was first banned in 2001 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Since then, the government had renewed the prohibition three times. Last February, when the Centre re-imposed the two-year ban, Simi challenged it, which resulted in the special tribunal being set up to adjudicate. On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision and ruled that the ban should continue. This reflects the legal complexities in the fight against terror — as well as a growing sense of confusion.

One view has it that not enough laws exist to combat terrorism. Then there are the allegations of anti-terror laws being misused to bypass safeguards afforded to criminal defendants under both the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Security agencies would have us believe that Simi activists definitely had a hand in the recent rash of terror bombings in the country and that lifting the ban would amount to letting the organisation off the scanner. True, these are not exaggerated jitters, considering ongoing investigations do point to Simi’s involvement in the serial bomb attacks. But as long as the security agencies are unable to provide clinching evidence in court, the legal system will be hard put to impose sanctions on any organisation. India’s ground-level intelligence- gathering leaves much to be desired.

There can be no two ways about it: the government must adopt newer tactics for carrying out law enforcement and surveillance. Otherwise, its credibility will be eroded by the very way it ‘fights’ terrorism whose tentacles are evidently spreading to ‘softer’ targets, as happened in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.