The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed an amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which defines terrorist acts and specifies officers who can investigate cases under it. The proposed legislation provided fodder for political acrimony, and was passed in the Lower House despite strong objections by several Opposition leaders.
Here's how the central government and members of the Opposition put forward their arguments on the bill —
Yasin Bhatkal would've been arrested sooner if he was a designated terrorist, says Amit Shah
Home minister Amit Shah said the provision in UAPA (amendment) bill to designate a person suspected to have terror links as terrorist is necessary to root out terror. "There's a need for a provision to declare an individual as a terrorist. The United Nations has a procedure for it, the United States has it, Pakistan has it, China has it, Israel has it, European Union has it; everyone has done it," Shah said.
He also said that Yasin Bhatkal (accused in multiple cases of bombings) would have been arrested if he had been designated as a terrorist.
Hitting out at the Congress for opposing the amendment, he said if the UPA was correct in amending anti-terror laws in their tenure, then so is the NDA. He further said that in the name of ideology, some people promote urban Maoism and the government has no sympathy towards them.
The government fights terrorism and it should not matter which party is in power, Shah said, referring to amendments made in anti-terror laws by successive governments.
Addressing concerns by the Opposition over social activists being targeted under the Act, the home minister said, "There are crores of people who work as social activists or workers. They are never targeted (by the police). But there are a few who work for the urban Maoists, and these people won’t be spared,”
Shah said that Left Wing Extremism (LWE) began as an ideological movement, but later, under the garb of this ideology, Maoists rampantly killed thousands of innocent people.
Earlier in the day, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on Tuesday moved the Bill for passage in the House mentioning that the government wanted to take strict steps against terrorism for which it had adopted a "zero tolerance" policy.
'Opposition runs risk of being labelled anti-national,' says Mahua Moitra
Speaking on the bill, TMC MP Mahua Moitra said that the proposed legislation seeks to designate individuals as terrorists without due process. She was also of the view that the bill takes away the powers of the states and also called it anti-federal, anti-constitutional and anti-people.
"If the Centre wants to target someone, they will get them somehow with the help of some law... Opposition leaders, minorities, right activists and others if they disagree with the homogenous idea of India that this government is trying to thrust upon, Opposition runs the risk of being labelled as anti-national," she said.
In a similar vein, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi said that there should be no tolerance towards miscarriage of justice. He said under this law, India has created a world record in time period of police detention, as on the basis of suspicion, one can be kept under police custody up to six months, while in the United Kingdom it is just 28 days, and in the United States, it is two days.
Owaisi also said that the UAPA Bill violates Articles 14 and 21 and will take over judicial rights.
"This bill violates Articles 14 and 21 and in my view, no one can be called terrorist merely on the basis of the feeling of the government or mere suspicion. One can be called a terrorist only after a judgment of a court of a law. This (bill) is social ostracisation."
Karti Chidambaram from the Congress accused the government of destroying the federal structure and individual liberty through the bill.
The member said he wondered whether such a stringent law would have prevented the Pathankot or Pulwama attack.
The Congress member expressed the fear that future governments can misuse the amended law. Chidambaram said the BJP will not be remain in power forever and "the boot can always be on the other foot."
Before voting took place on the bill, Opposition members, including Congress leader of the Floor Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 24, 2019 19:58:11 IST