the Name of Terrorism
By Y.P. Chhibbar
The PUCL Bulletin devoted substantial space at the beginning of the year, the first year of the millennium, to put on record the PUCL's continued opposition to oppressive laws. Shri K.G. Kannabiran, in a note to the Chairman, Law Commission, and Government of India set out the reasons behind the PUCL policy. They traced the history of the law enacted by the British to contain terrorism. These laws were used to suppress the national movement. Preventive detention as 'a temporary' measure came into force on 26th February 1950 after the coming to force of the new Constitution of January 26. Then came MISA, followed NSA. The temporary became permanent. In this series the last temporary legislation was TADA which was extended again and again till it was to lapse because the infamy it had earned due to its widespread flagrant abuse.
The debate on the new TADA in the shape of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2000 was sought to be given respectability by the presence of the Chief of the National Human Rights Commission.
Apart from the opposition from the people, two full Commission meetings of the NHRC have rejected the new proposal. The Law Minister has gone on record saying that he is opposed to the measure. This is not the place to talk about the new piece of legislation clause by clause. The salient features, which make us abhor can be mentioned here.
Under it custodial detention during investigation for up to 6 months is permitted; special courts can be set up and can sit in any place; its proceedings may not be published; contrary to the mandate of the ICCPR, to which we are a signatory, an accused is guilty till proven innocent; a confession before a Superintendent of Police is admissible; if the public prosecutor opposes bail, it is ordinarily to be denied; etc.
We know that not more than one percent of those before the TADA designated courts could be convicted. In 99% cases the charges were an abuse of law! Functioning of the Police and its being subject to political influence leads to such a situation. When even the Judiciary may say that liberty itself was the gift of law and may be, thus, forfeited by law (Justice Ray during the Emergency), whence can one turn to?
The experience has been that in the wake of oppressive laws an atmosphere of oppression comes into being. We have seen it under TADA, under the Army (Special Powers) Act, the Disturbed Areas Act. We have seen it in Punjab. We are seeing it in the North East, and in J & K.
Today we see that a Commission set up by the Government has drafted a piece of legislation as desired by the Government. A Commission set up by the Parliament has opposed it. Let us hope the Parliament will prevail over the Government
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(PUCL Bulletin, August 2000)