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A view of Indian Parliament

Opposition raises concerns over misuse of anti-terror Bill

ANI | Updated: Aug 02, 2019 01:18 IST

New Delhi [India], Aug 2 (ANI): The Opposition on Thursday raised concerns over the "misuse" of The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, that seeks to designate an individual as a terrorist.
Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, who tabled the Bill in Rajya Sabha days after it was approved by the Lower House, however, rejected their apprehensions, saying the amendments have been brought in to designate people like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim as terrorists.
"The Prime Minister went to foreign countries seeking support to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. The amendments are to designate such individuals as terrorists," Reddy said during the debate.
He slammed the Congress for questioning the government's intentions and reminded that it was the Congress which declared several outfits as terrorist organisations.

"As many as 34 outfits were declared terror organisations. Individual designations will be made under the law you made in 1967," he said inviting vociferous protests from the Congress.

The minister's remarks came after several Opposition members including from the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and MDMK opposed the Bill and raised concerns about the misuse of the "draconian" provisions in the Bill.

Congress's Kapil Sibal requested the Home Minister to agree with the proposal of referring the Bill to the Select Committee and added that if he disagrees, he will oppose the Bill.
He said the existing provisions under law have ample space to prosecute anyone who supports terror asserting that the percentage of acquittals in terror cases are huge and convictions are very low.
"The House should think how long should innocent people remain in jail as under trials. While fighting terror, we should also know what is happening on the ground," he said.

The former Union Minister said the Bills will be passed with a "manufactured majority" in the Rajya Sabha but to no avail because several provisions will not stand scrutiny of law.
"Why do you need a separate provision to declare a person as a terrorist? Will a person be declared a terrorist before an FIR is passed or after the chargesheet is filed? How is this consistent with the principle of innocent till proven guilty?," he asked.

"Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist. Nathuram Godse is a terrorist. But you are not brave enough to call Godse a terrorist," he said.

Trinamool Congress' Sukhendu Shekhar Ray opposed the Bill and said there was no need to bring this Bill and expressed apprehension that it would be used to target people who are critical of the government.
"People fighting for tribal rights, environment protection would be branded as terrorists through this law," he said.
MDMK's Vaiko said he had been a victim of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) brought by the BJP government in 2002, and spent 19 months in jail.
"I have been branded as a traitor for my support to the LTTE and Eelam movement... Centre is acting unilaterally, it is empowering itself," he said describing the Bill as undemocratic and unconstitutional.

He urged the House to reject the Bill lock, stock and barrel.

The discussion on the Bill remained inconclusive as the House was adjourned for the day. The discussion will resume on Friday that will be followed by Home Minister Amit Shah's reply.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, has already been cleared by the Lok Sabha on July 24.
The Bill seeks to further amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The bill empowers the Central government to designate individuals as terrorists if the person commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
Earlier, the government could only designate organisations, and not individuals, as terrorists.
It also empowers the Director-General, National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the agency. (ANI)