Cabinet nod for repeal of POTA
New Delhi, September 17
Both the ordinances will be issued soon, simultaneously, and followed up by introduction of two Bills in the next session of Parliament to replace these two ordinances.
The decision to this effect was taken at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after a draft of the ordinances was presented before it.
Besides Dr Manmohan Singh, the meeting was attended among others by Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Chemical and Fertilizers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Briefing newspersons, Mr Patil said the government would provide a “sunset period” of one year during which all cases pertaining to POTA would be reviewed by the Central POTA Review Committee.
No arrests would be made under POTA after the ordinance was promulgated, he added.
He said adequate amendments were being brought to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to define a terrorist act and provide for banning of terrorist organisations and their support systems, including funding of terrorism, attachment and forfeiture of proceeds of terrorism, etc.
All terrorist organisations banned under POTA would continue to remain banned, of course, under the Unlawful Activities Act after the repeal of the Act, he said.
Some of the clauses contained in POTA, which will be completely dropped in the amended Unlawful Activities Act, are: the onus on the accused to prove his innocence, compulsory denial of bail to accused and admission as evidence in the court of law the confession made by the accused before the police officer, Mr Patil said.
To a question on whether the repeal of POTA would not amount to directly helping the accused in some of the sensational cases of terrorism, Mr Patil said: “That is why a provision of review of various existing POTA cases by the Central POTA Review Committee has been kept.”
“The committee shall review all cases pending in courts or at various stages of investigation within a period of one year from the date of repeal of the Act,” he said.
“Whenever, in the opinion of the review committee, no prima facie case is made out either in respect of cases pending in courts or under investigation, such cases shall be deemed to have been withdrawn and investigations closed as the case may be,” he added.
POTA, which was notified on March 28, 2002, is to lapse on October 23.
The amended Act would define the word “terrorist” and was likely to extend the penalty up to capital punishment for anti-national activities, take care of India’s global obligation and ban all foreign militant outfits like the Al-Qaida.
Mr Patil asserted that the amended Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act would have provisions to effectively tackle and check the menace of funding of terrorist organisations.
Mr Patil said the UPA had been concerned with the manner in which POTA was “misused” in the past two years.
With today’s decision, the government had fulfilled one of its commitments in the common minimum programme, he added.
“It is important to note that the intention of the government is to protect the rights of people vis-a-vis the misuse of POTA. However, the government is fully committed to firmly dealing with acts of terrorism,” he added.
On the timing of the decision, especially when the Election Commission had announced Assembly poll in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh and by-elections to 40-odd Assembly seats spread across various states, Mr Patil said: “We had committed in our common minimum programme that we would repeal POTA and we could not have waited for the elections to be over.”
BJP slams decision to repeal POTA
New Delhi, September 17
“There are nine essentials of POTA, including definition of terrorism. We would wait for the UPA government’s amendments to the existing laws before giving our structured reaction,” BJP spokesperson and former Law Minister Arun Jaitley told newspersons here.
The nine essentials of POTA included definition of ‘terrorism’, making funding of terrorism an offence, provision for confiscating money and assets earned as profits of terrorism, interception of communication between terrorists, ban on terrorist outfits, stringent bail provisions and protection of witnesses and constitution of special courts to try out offences.
Mr Jaitley said if the amendments brought out under the existing laws after the repeal of POTA found to be “inadequate”, the BJP-ruled states would be asked to come out with their own legislations filling up the lacuna.
Accusing the UPA of playing a “political card” on the eve of the Assembly poll, Mr Jaitley said a strange situation now exists as there are tougher laws to fight organised crimes in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat while soft laws are present to fight against terrorists.
Asked if the BJP viewed the Cabinet decision as an violation the poll code, Mr Jaitley said the party was studying the issue, but would be making it an issue in October 13 Assembly elections in Maharashtra.