Wednesday, December 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India





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All-party meeting on POTO fails
BJP firm on ordinance, issues whip
Tribune News Service

The BJP on Tuesday issued a three-line whip to its members to be present in both Houses of Parliament from December 12 onwards when the anti-terrorism Bill will be taken up. 

New Delhi, December 4
The all-party meeting today failed to resolve the deadlock over the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) even as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee declared his government’s firm intention to convert the ordinance into a law.

Briefing newspersons after a two-hour long meeting in Parliament, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said the Prime Minister told the representatives of the 23 parties that “we don’t intend to withdraw the ordinance”.

The government would bring the Bill for converting POTO into a law in the Lok Sabha next week and in the Rajya Sabha in the following week, Mr Mahajan said.

While the Samajawadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal opposed POTO saying that the present laws were sufficient to deal with the threat from terrorism, the Congress and to an extent the Left parties, were of the view that though they would not accept POTO but if a fresh Bill was brought before Parliament, then it was a different case, Mr Mahajan said.

To a question, Mr Mahajan said nine parties totally opposed the measure while it was supported by 14 parties, including some which wanted certain amendments. All Dravidian parties including the AIADMK, the DMK, the MDMK and the PMK supported the Bill.

To another question whether the government intended to bring major amendments to the present anti-terrorism bill, Mr Mahajan merely said “it is too premature”.

Addressing the meeting, the Prime Minister said a special law to deal with terrorism, particularly in the background of public statements made by some terrorist organisations against the country, was needed and that was why the government went in for an ordinance.

Allaying apprehensions that the anti-terrorism law would be misused, the Prime Minister said there were courts, media, human rights organisations and political parties which would work as a watchdog and “therefore there was no question of its misuse, nor will we allow it.” Home Minister L.K. Advani, who had taken an hardline stand on the issue, refuted the Opposition allegation of having brought the anti-terrorism law in a haste. Police as well as Army officials were advocating the need for a law to tackle terrorism as they were finding it difficult to deal with the situation following the scrapping of TADA in 1995, he said.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi said her party felt that there were lot of “deficiencies” in the ordinance and expressed disappointment over the government’s reluctance to “listen to our views”.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said all left parties strongly opposed the ordinance and questioned the urgency behind rushing with it. “Let it be withdrawn, discuss the issue with Chief Ministers and if necessary a law can be framed through consensus.”

Meanwhile, hours before the Prime Minister convened an all-party meeting over the government’s proposed Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), opposition MPs and journalists today took to the streets to protest the controversial ordinance and demanded its withdrawal.Back

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