Now in Parliament: Teeth for terror law | india | Hindustan Times
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Now in Parliament: Teeth for terror law

Four years and 6,000 deaths after scrapping the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Govt goes back to the Parliament to toughen the anti-terror legal framework. HT reports. See graphicsRoad to Recovery

india Updated: Dec 17, 2008 10:18 IST

Four years and 6,000 deaths after scrapping the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the government on Tuesday went back to Parliament to toughen the anti-terror legal framework and set up a National Investigation Agency empowered to take over probes in terror-related offences across the country.

<b1>“The government is of the view that further provisions are required to be made in the law to cover various facets of terrorism… which are not fully covered in the present law,” the Unlawful Activities Prevention Amendment Bill 2008 introduced in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister P Chidambaram said.

The BJP promptly drew comparisons with the repealed POTA, saying the new law did not match their expectation. But, promised BJP’s Arun Jaitley, “as a nationalist party, we will support the incomplete steps.” Left parties hinted they too could back the government.

Confessions before police officers will not be admissible as evidence under the proposed law. Nor will the accused be presumed guilty.

“Besides these provisions that formed part of POTA which the government believed were draconian in nature, this is quite a tough version,” said a home ministry official. In order to ensure that the police don’t manipulate this law, it will be mandatory for the government to make an independent review of the evidence before sanctioning prosecution of an accused.

Its definition of a terrorist act includes disruption of essential supplies to any community, damage of any property, attempt to overawe people by use or show of criminal force and attempt to cause death of any public functionary.

It also stipulates a 10-year jail term for anyone who threatens a person to hand over explosives to be used by terrorists, aids in financing to terrorists, and scales down the level of police officers who can conduct searches and arrests under the law from a Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Combined with the National Investigation Agency, the home ministry official said, the twin amendments would negate the limitations of resources and manpower that exists at the state level.

UPA coalition partners had made repeal of POTA an election issue in 2004. The Congress-led coalition delivered on this promise but the security establishment complained it had weakened the anti-terror shield too.

Nearly 6,000 civilian deaths to insurgency, naxalism and terrorism related violence had forced a review within the government. High-profile terrorism in urban locations — 70 blasts and attacks this year alone including the Mumbai attacks, killing 400 — finally forced the Manmohan Singh government to reverse its position.