Home minister Amit Shah (PTI file)
Home minister Amit Shah (PTI file)

Parliament clears anti-terror Bill

  • NIA to get wide-ranging probe, prosecution powers
  • The bill also escaped scrutiny by a select committee, with 104 members voting against such a move

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Friday passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, a legislative measure that the government says will give more teeth to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s anti-terror probe agency.

The bill, passed by 147-42 votes, will give NIA powers to investigate and prosecute not just organizations but individuals as well. With the Centre managing its numbers on the floor of the Upper House, where it is in a minority, the bill also escaped scrutiny by a select committee, with 104 members voting against such a move.

Speaking in the Upper House, home minister Amit Shah said it was imperative to send out a message across the world of India’s united stance against terrorism.

“Till 31 July 2019 the NIA has seen a 91% conviction rate in terror cases. The cases NIA registers are complex and spread across the country. There is a four-stage provision to ensure that there is no scope for misuse. The amendments also define that an individual will be declared a terrorist when he is found abetting and supporting terror activities, orchestrating a terror act and spreading the message of terror," Shah said, in a bid to allay fears of the Opposition on possible misuse of the law.

Pre-empting Shah’s response, senior Congress leader and MP (member of Parliament) P. Chidambaram, however, expressed grave concerns over the way an individual can be designated as a terrorist.

“If the central government believes that an individual is a terrorist, then there will be no FIR or chargesheet, or a trial in a court, before he is labelled a terrorist. We are doing something which is hopelessly unconstitutional and it will be struck down," said Chidambaram.

However, Shah issued a rebuttal saying there was a need to zero down on a suspect in a terror case before they slipped out of the country. “There are cases where the accused are absconding. So, if they are not cooperating, based on circumstantial evidence we will be able to label them a terrorist under the Act," he added.

A heated debate ensued when Congress leader Digvijay Singh took a dig at the Centre’s move “to make one person accused of terrorism a member of the Parliament", alluding to controversial Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Singh Thakur.

The bill seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

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