The Bill will empower government to designate individuals as terrorists.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which will tighten the country’s lead anti-terror law and empower the government to designate individuals as terrorists has been passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday amid protests from the Opposition. Union Home Minister Amit Shah defended the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha and said the top priority of the Narendra Modi government is to ‘uproot terrorism.’
He said that even when the NDA was in the Opposition, it still used to back tough laws against terrorism. He said that the entire House must unite against the terrorism. “When you question us you don't see who brought the law & amendments, who made it stringent. It was brought when you were in power, what you did then was right & what I'm doing now is also right,” Shah added.
On Tuesday, moving the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, MoS Home Kishan Reddy had also said "this government was working against terrorism with zero tolerance."
The minister said between 2004-14, a little over 40 incidents of "inter-land terrorism" took place. In these incidents, 883 people were killed. However, from 2014-19, four incidents of inter-land terrorism took place in which 91 people were killed. Of these four, three were Pakistan sponsored, he said.
Members of the opposition in the Lok Sabha raised concern over amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, saying the provisions were against the federal structure of the country.
The proposed law allows the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go to any state without taking permission from state police concerned for checking anti-terror activities. This is against the federal structure of the country, Mahua Moitra (TMC) said during a debate on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019.
Opposing the Bill, she said when the NIA itself is under a cloud, there is also apprehension of the agency being misused for political vendetta.
"Features of the Bill are anti-people and anti-Constitution...it is a very dangerous act," she added.
During the debate, Moitra said, "One runs a risk of being branded as anti-national if you oppose the government".
"Every time the opposition disagrees with national security, we are called anti-national by the propaganda machinery and troll army of the government," she said amid uproar from treasury benches.
SS Ahulwalia (BJP) raised point of order that members cannot make allegation against the government without substantiating it.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said it is derogatory and the government has not called any one anti-national.
However, after intervention from the chair she was allowed to speak.
The provision to declare an individual as terrorist is without due process and against principle of natural justice, she said.
Supriya Sule (NCP) said when amendments to the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) were made, the then Chief Minister (Narendra Modi) of Gujarat had "opposed" the Bills.
"It was the Centre's duty to consult states...federal structure are being snatched," she said quoting the then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
She said there should not be misuse of the law. Innocent people should not be unnecessary harassed, she said, adding, the federal structure should be maintained.
Danish Ali (BSP) raised apprehensions about the misuse of the proposed law and of innocent being harassed. Citing example of POTA and TADA, he said these laws were repealed by this House itself because of rampant misuse.
VN Borlakunta (TRS) said the provision of the Bill is taking away rights of states and it is against the federal spirit of the Constitution.
Pointing out that the proposed amendment gives absolute power to the central government, Md Jawed (Congress) said arresting an individual as a terrorist on the basis of suspicion alone is "dangerous". Will government provide compensation to those who are victim of misuse of such a law, if applied, he asked.
Participating in the debate, Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena) said the bill would help in controlling terrorist activities in the country.
He alleged that the previous government was not able to control this menace because they used laws for political purposes.
"They were not successful in controlling terrorism," he said.
He demanded the government further strengthen the judicial system for timely implementation of rulings in terrorism-related cases to create fear in minds of terrorists
"Within three years, it should be implemented," Raut said.
Pinaki Misra (BJD) said there should be a better coordination among different agencies and NIA. The coordination should be done through an institutionalised set up and not on case-to-case basis, he said.
He also suggested that crimes including bio-terrorism and narco-terrorism should be covered under the purview of this law.
"State should also give time-bound reports..Judicial system needs to be further strengthened and there is also a need for police reforms," he said.
Misra also said that there is a need to ensure that minorities do not suffer and police should file a charge sheet within 90 days and not 180 days as mentioned in the bill.
He added that people gave large mandate to this government as they have trust that it would provide proper safety and security.
(With PTI inputs)