Ram Nath Kovind gives nod to Gujarat anti-terror law
The proposed law was approved by the President three months after the Parliament approved amendments to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allowed the Centre to declare an individual a terrorist.Updated: Nov 06, 2019 00:44 IST
President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC), Bill, 2015, four years after it was approved by the state assembly, minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja said on Tuesday.
The proposed law allows intercepted audio conversations and confessions to the police to be presented as evidence in a court of law and permits the police to detain a person without bail.
The Gujarat government had in 2003 first proposed a law to check organised crime on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The law was rejected twice during the years in power of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
In 2015, the Gujarat government revised the draft bill and included terrorism in the proposed law, which was approved by the assembly with a majority vote, a year after Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power at the Centre.
The proposed law was approved by the President three months after the Parliament approved amendments to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allowed the Centre to declare an individual a terrorist.
“The dream of Prime Minister and former Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for controlling organized crime and terrorism in this border state will now be fulfilled. The president today has cleared the bill,” Jadeja said.
“The GCTOC will help in curbing terrorism, will enhance Gujarat’s security cover at state and national level and will also strengthen the police force,” the minister said.
The law’s controversial section 16 stipulates “a confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of superintendent of police (SP)…shall be admissible in the trial of such accused, co-accused, abettor or conspirator.”
Clause 25 provides immunity to the government and police officers for initiating action under the law. “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the state government or any officer or authority of the state government for anything which is done in the good faith or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act,” the bill states.
Senior lawyer Sanjay Hedge said that it was for a good reason that confessions before the police had been excluded from evidence admissible before the courts.
“The confession to the police has been upheld by the Supreme Court in cases of terror with stringent safeguards. But still the provisions have been misused. The definition of organised crime for goons and bootleggers is vague and we have seen that the law has been misused to target all and sundry including political opponents. I don’t expect the Gujarat law to be implemented differently,” he said.
Nilotpal Basu, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said: “It is very clear that this government and the BJP are moving away from the universally accepted terms of jurisprudence.”
The Gujarat Congress alleged that the law will be misused to create an atmosphere of fear. “Through this Act, the BJP wants to do the politics of fear and terror,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
When the bill was tabled in, then home minister Rajnikant Patel had raised concerns over Pakistan’s attempts at cross-border terrorism and Gujarat’s vulnerable 1,500-km-long coastline.