Doubt clouds anti-terror bill as oppositon, experts question arbitrary provision

  • The amendment has caused outrage among not just the opposition MPs but has raised the heckles of experts too
  • The bill has caused a stir with one of the proposed amendments empowering the Centre to label an individual a "terrorist," if it "believes" that the individual is involved in terror activities

Shaswati Das
First Published3 Aug 2019
Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah (Photo: PTI)

India’s key terror investigation body – the National Investigation Agency (NIA) – now has more teeth to deepen its probe in terror cases with the passage of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019 in Parliament in the ongoing Budget session.

However, the bill has caused a stir with one of the proposed amendments empowering the Centre to now label an individual a "terrorist," if the Centre "believes" that the individual is involved in terror activities.

The amendment has caused outrage among not just the opposition members of Parliament (MP) but has raised the heckles of experts as well, who question the arbitrary nature of the amendment.

"How will you decide at what stage a person will be named? Naming an organisation is one thing, naming an individual is another. If they name me, I can go to a review committee. But my livelihood, my reputation, my social standing are all damaged. It is one thing if there is a 'preview' committee. But when will you name him? The home minister has not allayed any fears and he does not answer the question -- on what basis will you name an individual?" senior Congress MP and former Union home minister P. Chidambaram told Mint.

Even as Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday defended the amendment in the Upper House, saying that the move was aimed at quashing any attempts by individuals to operate multiple unlawful groups while also cracking down on them before they were absconding -- based on circumstantial evidence, experts have questioned the extent of misuse.

"In areas such as Kashmir, there is huge scope of misuse of this law. There are ongoing crackdowns already. But in addition, this law will have the power to indict even someone the security forces don't like purely on the basis of suspicion. There is significant potential to misuse this without any provision to safeguard the interest of the individual," said Nisar Ali, a member of the state finance commission of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The bill seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, making special provisions to deal with terrorist activities, as well as individuals and groups that foster or support terrorism. The bill has been criticised by the Opposition for provisions empowering the government to declare individuals as terrorists and seize their property while investigation is on.

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