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Pending amendments to UAPA Act: Terrorists must face strict laws!

admin September 7, 2013

India has been facing terrorism in one form or the other almost since Independence. Most of it is due to the ambition of Pakistan to show India down, as the four wars since 1947 have shown. In fact, due to reasons of vote bank politics India has not been having any law against terrorism. Terrorism and Anti Disruptions Act was the first causality in 2004, despite attack on the Parliament on 13/12/2001.

After 26/11 attack, Government realised that with circuitous system and weak or no laws, there was no way it could end the menace of terrorism. Mercifully, the standard condemnation and hollow proclamation that Government would deal with the terrorists firmly have stopped for some time. The list of attacks on India is too long with hardly any worthwhile conviction. Even if some body is convicted and sentenced the Government puts every thing in the cold storage in the guise that the convicted felon’s mercy petition is pending.

It is worthwhile to give the cost of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, as reported in the police souvenir of J&K Police released in 2003. It says that there were 56,041 incidents of violence, including 10,093 explosions, 29,931 firing incidents, 5,561 arson, 763 rocket attacks, 4,597 abductions, 229 cases of hanging to death, 275 arms snatching cases and 4,592 other acts of violence from January 1990 till December, 2002.

bi-terrorist-2It added that more than 30,000 civilians were killed during the 14 year -long militancy while 60,000 terrorists died during the same period. The security forces seized 24,785 AK-type rifles, 9,387 pistols and revolvers, 58 carbines, 1,003 RPGs, 91 light machine guns and self-loading rifles, 742 rocket launchers and 2,270 rocket boosters during the same period. Besides, 6,865 kg of RDX, 47,219 grenades, 5,228 anti-personnel mines and 4,176 rockets were recovered.

Government of India, realising that it was failing in every fight against the terrorists, decided to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2008, The amended bill defines a terrorist act involving use “bombs, dynamite… other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisonous or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances… of a hazardous nature or by any other means of whatever nature.

However it was enjoined on the government to prove any physical act was likely to cause terror in the people. Under the section 43A of the amended UAPA, a person may be arrested by any officer of the “Designated Authority” on the basis of “personal knowledge”, or information furnished by another person, or “from any document, article or any other thing which may furnish evidence of the commission” of an offence under the Act (emphasis added). The arresting officer only needs to inform the suspect of the charge against him/her “as soon as may be”.

bi-terrorist-3The 2008 Amendment extended the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 180 days after 90 days. However, a judge considering the extension of pre-charge detention must consider and record in writing the decision for extending detention. Additionally, if an accused person is detained but not charged, he/she should have the right to seek compensation.

Under the 2008 UAPA amendment presumption of innocence & burden of proof is denied to the accused. During the parliamentary debates, the Home Minister clarified this reversal of the burden of proof on the grounds that in the past, terrorists have evaded conviction because they were permitted to remain silent. He added that if evidence points to the accused “then the accused has a duty to enter the box or let in evidence to say that I am giving contrary evidence.”[In addition to shifting the burden of proof, this would also deny the accused the right to remain silent.

bi-terrorist-4Moreover, section 51A of the Bill provides, that the Central Government has the power to “freeze, seize… attach” and prohibit the use of “funds, financial assets or economic resources” of individuals “suspected to be engaged in terrorism”. Under this section the Central Government can also “prevent the entry into or the transit through India of individuals… suspected to be engaged in terrorism”. This provision essentially empowers the Indian government to exercise control over the finances or movements of a suspected terrorists as Gilani or Headly a Pakistani, but now a USA citizen did.

All this should have been done much earlier. Muslim Ulemas have issued a Fatwa against terrorism. Even in the most vulnerable areas, people are not given gun licenses liberally so that they can also face the terrorists as it is not possible for the Government to police every inch of terrorist affected area.

bi-terrorist-5As terrorism is an invisible enemy, it cannot be fought with a big army or a big arsenal. All the major terrorists’ attacks, both in India and abroad have been master minded and executed by a single digit number. One can have no objection to politicians playing games for loaves and fishes, as they do all over the world, like changing their parties, making new allies, or quarrelling for the sake of getting elections tickets for their kith or kin or their siblings. But, when such a game is carried to the ludicrous extent of selling the national interest or compromising on the integrity or sovereignty of the country, then it is time for us to wake up and take note of it.

The trouble is that there are a lot of arm chair theoreticians’, or Human Rights activists or bleeding hearts who sitting in the air conditioned comforts and secure environs shed tears for every terrorist killed in open encounters. Appallingly, even though such people were never at the scene of encounter, they declare the same as fake. Of course, there is no punishment for telling lies. The Supreme Court of USA has also held that telling lies is a fundamental right as a part of free speech in that country.

bi-terrorist-6In our country, this practice is wide spread, as the supporters of terrorists come in various shapes and guises and unfortunately, the Government listens to them more than the interest of the common man. Shockingly, even these amendments which are badly needed, when put up to the Union Cabinet on 17/18 July, 2012, were deferred or in other words not approved. So we are back to square one and as in military parlance: “Jaisey Thhey”.

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. Sir Winston Churchill while opposing the Indian Independence Bill in June 1947 said about the kind of leaders India will have; “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water would be taxed in India.”

We are incredible; we have worked very hard to prove him right even in protecting our country against terrorists and refusing to face reality. It is for the government to prove Churchill wrong. And it should bear in mind “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

Joginder Singh, is Former Director of Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), India.

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