Saturday, December 1, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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POTO: govt ‘banking’ on Congress
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, who had been strongly advocating passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) in its present form, today expressed the government’s preparedness to adopt suggestions from the Opposition parties on the proposed legislation.

The Home Minister also admitted that the Government was banking on the support of the main Opposition party, the Congress for the passage of POTO in Parliament as the Congress-ruled states of Karnataka and Maharashtra had more stringent laws to fight organised crime.

“There is an urgent need for a stringent law against terrorism. We will make an effective law against terrorism; nobody should mistake this resolve,” Mr Advani said, inaugurating a two-day national seminar on “Security Forces, Morale and Human Rights — The Right Balance, Trial by Media vs Trial by Court, and POTO” organised by the Criminal Justice Society of India here.

Pointing out that consultation cannot be held before an ordinance is promulgated, the Home Minister said, “We are ready to take any suggestion from the Opposition and other quarters to improve the law to make it more effective.”

Mr Advani said further discussions would be held on the legislation at an all-party meeting to be convened by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as discussions in the Consultative Committee attached to the Home Ministry could not arrive at any conclusion.

About the Congress support for the controversial ordinance, the Home Minister said, “We thought with the Congress-ruled states of Karnataka and Maharashtra having enacted more stringent provisions to fight organised crime, which is a lesser crime than terrorism, we could bank on their support for POTO.”

Giving instances of the prosecution of police officials who fought bravely to wipe out the menace in Punjab, Mr Advani said the anti-terrorist law would be enacted keeping three things in mind — to wipe terror from society, to keep the morale of the security forces high and to eliminate terrorists and their organisations.

Stressing the need for protecting the security forces from prosecution due to phoney cases of human rights violation, the Home Minister said “those who oppose POTO would make the security force personnel unhappy”.

Noting that the proxy war being waged on India for the past 15 years was far worse than an open war, he said terrorist groups would be “wittingly or unwittingly” helped if Parliament failed to pass the legislation during the current winter session.

POTO was also needed to ban the Jaish-e-Mohammad and other terrorist organisations, he said.

Delivering the keynote address, Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley made a scathing attack on human rights organisations saying many of them were the overground wings of the militant outfits be it Kashmir or Andhra Pradesh.

Referring to the controversy over the inclusion of journalists in the provisions of POTO, Mr Jaitley said not a single section of the ordinance dealt with the bonafide journalistic activities.

“The provision requiring every citizen to inform the police about any impending terrorist activity was there in the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 and the new Cr PC of 1973.

Former Punjab Police Director-General K.P.S. Gill said the attacks on POTO appeared to be part of a larger design to harm the country. It could be the work of Pakistani agents, he said, adding that the common man wanted peace and was in favour of this law.Back

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