November 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Scribes for more safeguards
New Delhi, November 17
Defending POTO, Dr N.M. Ghatate, Member, Law Commission, said there was no law which could not be abused. Allaying apprehensions about the widely-discussed ordinance, Dr Ghatate said the police had been made accountable under the legislation with only a SP-rank official empowered to make arrests.
Maintaining that there was a need for special law, he said the proposed legislation did not put any new curbs on journalists and reasonable restrictions were contained even in Article 19 of the Constitution.
Refuting criticism that prior consultations were not held before the ordinance was promulgated, Dr Ghatate said several leaders from the Opposition were present at the consultative meeting of the MHA in July where the issue was discussed.
Calling for a legislation like POTO, Mr Nikhil Kumar, former DGP, Delhi Police referred to the problems faced by the police, while investigating terrorist crimes in the post-TADA years. He said a special legislation was needed because the investigating agencies needed a lot more time for probing terrorist crimes as these had inter-state or cross-country linkages.
Pointing out that POTO had guidelines issued by courts on TADA cases, he called for including organised crime in the ambit of POTO and associating public representatives in the committees to be set up for reviewing POTO cases. “This would go a long way in allaying fears of minorities,” he said.
Mr Prabhjot Singh, Chief of Bureau of The Tribune, Chandigarh, recounted his personal experiences to highlight the problems faced by mediapersons while working in terrorism-hit areas. Warning against POTO provisions that could affect work of journalists, he said that the police could question scribes on slightest pretext.
Recalling how a posse of the police from different states and intelligence agencies quizzed him after an interview of some militant leader was published during days of militancy in Punjab, he said often teams led by police officers would sit in his office for hours asking about any possible association. He said sedition cases had been filed for carrying statements of militants and government agencies had tried to control media.
Maintaining that media exercised self-restraint in its reporting of terrorism-linked events, Mr Prabhjot Singh said an exclusive interview of General K Sundarji he had done only a day after Operation Bluestar was not carried because it could have had an adverse impact on the prevailing situation.
Objecting to the manner in which POTO ordinance had been brought about, Mr Abhishek Singhvi, former Additional Solicitor-General, said mere meeting of the consultative committee was not enough to rush through a measure which was to be applied throughout the country. He said that certain sections of POTO such as Section 14 could be misused. Mr Prakash Karat of the CPM and Mr D. Raja of the CPI also questioned the way in which the government had promulgated an ordinance only days before the Parliament session.
Dr Harish Khare, Associate Editor, The Hindu, in his concluding remarks, said there seemed to be a lack of consensus on POTO with in the government and with in the NDA, not to talk of a broad political consensus. Organised by the Press Association, the discussion was moderated by Mr George
All-party meet on POTO
New Delhi, November 17
This was stated by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya who is attending a meeting of Chief Ministers on security here.
Mr Bhattacharya said the Prime Minister gave the assurance after Congress Chief Ministers insisted that there should be a discussion at political level on the issue.
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