M A I N   N E W S

LS passes terror agency bill
It represents a fair balance with respect to fundamental rights: PC
Faraz Ahmad/Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 17
In a swift response to the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Lok Sabha passed here today the twin bills-with virtually no opposition-to provide more teeth to the anti-terrorist law in the country and create a National Investigative Agency (NIA) to exclusively investigate terror crimes.

Winding up a day-long debate wherein, apart from some regional parties like the Akali Dal, the MIM and the Kerala Congress, almost the entire House supported the bill. Home minister P Chidambram piloting the two bills succeeded in persuading even the members of the Left parties to drop most of their amendments assuring them that he would try to accommodate these while framing the rules for the proposed agency.

Unmindful of this, CPM leader Bassudeb Acharia did move his amendment in both bills but pressed for a division only in the Unlawful Activities Act, where he sought to reduce the detention period from 180 days as proposed in the bill to 90 days. The Left lost badly in the division but CPM members had the consolation as they told the Congress members, “Now you truly stand with the BJP.”

The minister told the reluctant Left members, “Let us understand the mood of the nation. The mood of the nation is such. The nation expects us to pass such a law. The nation expects us to have such an agency.”

He said this is aimed at giving “A sense of confidence to the people that such actions would be punished; to give a sense of confidence to the police that it has the full backing of the government; to infuse confidence in the public prosecutor and in general to create a sense of confidence and security in the country.”

Promising that, “It will be my endeavour to see that these laws will apply without any discrimination,” he also indicated that the act was aimed at including communal offences also within the purview of the proposed act.

Earlier, piloting the NIA, Chidambram assured the Left critics, “We are tough on terror but can’t throw valuable human rights into the dustbin.”

Allaying the fears of the regional parties that through NIA the centre would transgress the state powers he said, “The police station will first pass the information of offence to the state government, which will convey it to the centre within 15 days. The centre will-depending on the gravity of the offence- decide on whether the NIA needs to investigate it,” adding that NIA would in any case ask the states to associate with investigations.

He stressed on the bill’s provision of day-to-day trials, saying the retirement of the judge would not stand in the way of trials. “The state can ask the judge to continue beyond retirement as well,” he said.

The new bill punishes fund raising for terrorist acts and organisation of terrorist camps, but relaxes (in comparison to POTA) grounds of refusal of bail to the accused. While POTA said a court could grant bail to the accused only if it concluded that the accused was neither guilty nor likely to commit an offence while on bail, the NIA bill allows a court to refuse bail if the court is prima facie convinced that charges against the accused are true.



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