Thursday, December 6, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet to discuss POTO changes today
Joint session likely on Bill
Tribune News Service and Agencies

New Delhi, December 5
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said the Union Cabinet would discuss tomorrow amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance.

Replying to questions in this regard at an Iftaar hosted by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, he said the “Cabinet will discuss amendments to POTO tomorrow.”

Mr Vajpayee declined to comment when asked whether the government was considering convening of a joint session of Parliament to adopt the Bill if it failed in the Rajya Sabha.

As reporters shot more questions, Dr Abdullah took the Prime Minister away.

Among others present at the party were Vice-President Krishan Kant, former Prime Ministers I.K. Gujaral, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Congress president and Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker GMC Balayogi, Centre’s interlocutor on Kashmir K.C. Pant, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar besides several other Union Ministers and senior bureaucrats from the state and the Central Government. The government is in minority in the Upper House, the POTO may fail to get the approval of the Rajya Sabha.

The Bharatiya Janata Party favoured a joint session of Parliament to ensure passage of a Bill meant to convert the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) into a law.

BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra accused the Congress of placing party interests above national interest by opposing the POTO.

The Bill to replace POTO would be introduced in Parliament on December 10 or 11 and would come up for discussion on December 12 and 13, Mr Malhotra said adding that a final decision to take the Bill to a joint session would be taken by the Government.

Prof Malhotra said the Government wanted to evolve consensus among political parties to deal firmly with terrorism, but the Congress was interested more in vote bank politics after having misused similar law in the past.

Picking up the Congress for the BJP’s wrath particularly, the BJP spokesman said while the left Parties and the Samajwadi Party opposed the Bill, consistently it was the Congress attitude that created confusion.

The Congress was also opposing proxy voting for defence personnel, which would not send right signals and would evoke adverse reactions, he said.

To the charge, Mr Malhotra S.Jaipal Reddy of the Congress said, “the boot is on the other leg”.

It was the BJP-led government which confronted the country with the POTO a few hours before the notification for the winter session of Parliament was issued, he said.

Mr Reddy accused the government of adopting a confrontationist course on the POTO.


Govt determined to push through POTO
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 5
Asserting that the Government was firm on going ahead with the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), Union Home Minister L.K. Advani said today the new anti-terrorism law was required as the present laws were inadequate for punishing terrorists.

“The present laws are inadequate for punishing terrorists... We can catch terrorists under the existing laws but cannot get them punished,” Mr Advani said addressing the 74th Annual Session of FICCI on “Governance, Internal Security and the Business Environment” here.

Emphasising that it was important to penalise terrorists, Mr Advani said “Government will not hesitate to bring it and will go forward in that direction.”

However, he pointed out that the Government was ready for amendments to the “existing provisions” of the anti-terrorism Ordinance.

Stating that the Vajpayee Government stood for a “synergistic relationship” with the Opposition, he said “our conscious effort to have synergistic relationship with the Opposition had resulted with the formation of the three new states of Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. But, we have not been able to achieve that on POTO. But we cannot move away from our responsibilities towards the nation”.

Describing cross-border terrorism as the “biggest challenge” before the nation, Mr Advani said the question of national security today had become a “comprehensive concern” of not just the Home and Defence Ministries, but also of the Finance, Commerce, Agriculture and other ministries along with the Planning Commission.

At the time of a national crisis, the politicians, business and the media should “react in a manner in which national concern is the focus”, as was reflected in the USA after the September 11 attacks, he said.

Emphasising that September 11 was a “turning point” like the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr Advani said like the dropping of atom bombs, which forced the world to think about the use of nuclear weapons the terror strikes in the USA had “added a totally new dimension to global security”.

Speaking on the responsibility of business houses, Mr Advani asked them not “to violate or short-change established laws and policies for achieving short-term gains for your own individual businesses”.

He quoted his ministerial colleague Mr Arun Shourie as saying that Government’s disinvestment programme “has not been proceeding smoothly because of hurdles created by business rivalries, in which the contenders often use politicians either to promote their own interests or harm the interests of their rivals”.


It’s dangerous: NHRC chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 5
National Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Justice J.S. Verma today said that certain provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance 2001, had dangerous potential of misuse by enforcement agencies and posed great threat to the human rights of innocent people. Justice Verma made this observation while delivering the Bodh Raj Sawhny Memorial lecture on ‘Combating Terrorism Under Rule of Law’.

Referring to some salient features of POTO, the Chaiperson said that the reversal of burden of proof for bail for a period of one year and before filing of charge sheet was contrary to the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence apart from the unfair requirement from the accused to prove that he was guiltless. Admissibility in evidence of statement recorded by a police officer for graver offence under POTO when the Evidence Act continued to make it inadmissible for any offence under the general law was incongruous.

The provision for general immunity for any action taken in the course of any operation directed towards combating terrorism in addition to that under the existing law for bonafide acts of public servants with the need of prior sanction to prosecute, have the propensity to further degenerate the tendency of custodial torture. The definition of the offence is also nebulous and vague, enlarging the scope of misuse of power, given the previous experience under MISA and TADA.Back


Centre bans PWG, MCC
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 5
In the wake of stepped-up violence in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and some other states, the Centre today banned the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) with immediate effect under the provisions of the controversial POTO.
With today’s action, the number of outfits banned and declared as terrorist groups has gone up to 25. The ordinance, promulgated on October 24, had proscribed 23 outfits, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, ULFA and SIMI.

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