New Delhi [India]: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill that empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists was passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday after a heated debate with Home Minister Amit Shah asserting that tough laws were required to end terrorism and the Bill does not encroach on powers of states.
Shah, in his reply also assured the House that the BJP led government will never misuse its provisions. Amendments to the Bill will keep anti-terror agencies two steps ahead of terrorists, he said.
Congress and several opposition parties staged a walkout after the minister’s reply demanding that the Bill be sent to a standing committee.
Shah said the BJP-led government had only brought an amendment to the law which was enacted by Congress and whose provisions were later made stringent.
The Union Minister said what the previous Congress governments did “was right and what the BJP-led government is doing is also right”.
“The law was enacted in 1967 by a Congress government and amendments made to it in 2004, 2008 and 2013 when Congress was in power. Who made the law stringent? What you did was right, what we are doing is also right,” he said.
He asked opposition members about their concerns when Congress had made changes to the law to make it stringent.
“There is a need for a provision in the Bill to designate a person suspected to have terror links as a terrorist. It is necessary to root out terror. United Nations has a procedure for it, the US has it, Pakistan has it, China has it, Israel has it, European Union has it, everyone has done it,” he said adding that the government’s primary aim was to wipe out terrorism.
Shah said that terrorists such as Indian Mujahideen’s Yasin Bhatkal, who stayed under the radar for years, would have been caught much earlier if he had been designated as terrorists.
“It would have been possible to track them down before he carried out 11 explosions,” he said.
Referring to the provisions of the Bill that allow an individual to be designated as a terrorist, he said that terrorists often float new organizations if a ban is imposed.
“Those who finance, help terrorists should also be called terrorists. Members of the House should not disagree with this,” he said.
Shah also said that the BJP-led government was against “urban Maoism”.
“In this country, a lot of people involved in social work are working respectably, the police are not fond of catching them, but we don’t have any sympathy for those who work for Urban Maoism,” the Home Minister said.
“We have no sympathy for those who promote Maoism under an ideological shield,” he said.
Soon after Shah’s reply, Congress and several other opposition parties staged a walkout demanding that the Bill be sent to a standing committee.
“For thorough scrutiny, the Bill should be sent to the standing committee,” Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had opposed the Bill when was Chief Minister of Gujarat.
As the opposition staged a walkout, Shah said the NDA government’s record was better than the UPA when it comes to sending the Bills to parliamentary standing committees.
“It is the first seating of the parliament session. The Bill was urgent to check terrorism. We have had enough discussion,” he said.
Taking a jibe at the Congress for the walkout, Shah said if they would have voted in the support of the Bill, there was a fear that they may lose their vote bank.
“That is why they are walking out…we cannot do anything,” he said.
Earlier, participating in the debate members of the opposition raised concern over amendments to the Bill, saying the provisions were against the federal structure of the country.
Opposing the amendment to Bill, Congress’ Manish Tewari said that the idea that stringent laws are the solution to dealing with terrorism and secessionism is a myth.
Mahua Moitra of Trinamool Congress said the proposed law allows the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go to any state without taking permission from state police concerned for checking anti-terror activities.
“This is against the federal structure of the country,” she said.
The debate also witnessed a heated argument with AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi saying that the Bill was “draconian” and lacks judicial review.
“I blame Congress party for this. They are the main culprits for bringing this law. When they are in power they are bigger than the BJP when they lose power they become big brother of Muslims,” he said.
“I believe IPC is good enough. Draconian laws, earlier by Congress and now by BJP have been used against Muslims and Dalits,” he said.