Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 23
The central government tabled amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 1967, in Lok Sabha on Monday, drawing opposition fears of misuse of the Bill’s provisions.
The new amendments, tabled through the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, allows people suspect of having links to militancy to be designated “terrorist”—a provision the Opposition has said could be used to turn the country into a surveillance state.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kishan Reddy, who spoke for the central government, said data showed 883 people were killed 40 incidents of “inter-land terrorism” recorded between 2004 and 14, and 91 people were killed in four incidents between 2014 and 2019, three of which he said Pakistan had sponsored.
While the central government had been taking measures to bring down incidents of terrorism in the country, they showed that the amendments were necessary, he told the House.
The Opposition however fears that the law could be misused. Congress leader Manish Tiwari said that the country’s experience with now repealed legislation such as Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act showed that draconian laws did nothing to curb terrorism.
“The solution is through political initiatives, not tough laws,” he said.
YSR Congress Parliamentarian KG Madhav Reddy said the NIA’s Director General the power to attach properties without the consent of from a state meant impinging on the powers of the state governments, “insult to the state, our chief minister and people”.
BJP Meenakshi Lekhi called Opposition’s criticisms against the Bill “too harsh”.
“Fear of law should be there in the minds of those who want to harm the country,” she said.
Under the new amendments, individuals could be designated terrorists if they commit or participate in acts of terrorism, prepare, promote or are otherwise involved in acts of terrorism. An investigating officer must obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties connected with terrorism. Investigations conducted by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officer needs the approval of the agency’s Director General.
NIA is the agency that investigates terrorism cases in the country.
Investigation may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above. The amendment also empowers NIA officers of the rank of inspector or above to investigate cases—a controversial provision that Congress leader Tewari said was unjustified given that other laws entrust an officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police with these investigations.