India set for tough anti-terror laws (Roundup, combining different series)

September 16th, 2008 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) India seems set to incrementally ramp up its anti-terror laws, with a key minister and a reforms panel speaking of the need for strengthening the statute - and also for creating a federal agency to probe terrorist acts.On its part, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reiterated the need for India to have a special law to battle terrorists, even as it sought a clarification whether the government had shot down National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan’s suggestion for state-specific anti-terror laws.

“In a few weeks we expect to come out with more focused and dramatic measures,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan told IANS in an exclusive interview.

“Terrorism is a growing concern for the government. There is serious thinking on creating a separate Federal Investigating Agency dedicated to combating terrorism.

“Position papers on this have been circulated. The Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) too has had a look at it. We have to get a consensus across the states for creating this new agency. The prime minister may keep it under his charge or it could be with the home ministry,” he said.

“Another idea being actively considered is restructuring the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) to enable it to have three separate wings.

“One will focus only on intelligence gathering in the context of terrorism and take appropriate preventive action; another will concentrate on economic crimes like money laundering, counterfeit currency and anti-corruption; while the third wing will on the request of states investigate and look into crimes beyond the capacity of the local police force.”

Chavan’s comments came after five bombs went off in three shopping districts in New Delhi Saturday, killing at least 24 people and injuring about 100 people. The terror attack, coming within weeks of similar strikes in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, sparked off widespread criticism that the Congress-led government was unable to put an end to unceasing terrorist activity.

Over 650 people have died in terrorist attacks in the country in the past eight years, with most of the cases yet to be cracked.

On Tuesday, the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended the establishment of a federal agency to investigate terrorist acts, as also the enactment of stringent laws to deal with the scourge.

“Tough anti-terror laws are required. We are of the view that a federal agency is required to investigate terrorist offences,” ARC chairman M. Veerappa Moily told reporters while releasing its eighth report titled Combating Terrorism.

Among the other measures the commission has recommended are strengthening anti money-laundering laws to block the flow of funds for financing terrorist activities, the creation of fast-track courts to exclusively deal with terrorist-related cases and a multi-pronged strategy to deal with “the menace of terrorism”.

This apart, the commission also said that no person accused of an offence punishable under the National Security Act (NSA) should be released on bail.

“A comprehensive and effective legal framework to deal with all aspects of terrorism needs to be enacted,” the commission said in its report.

“The law should have adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse. The legal provisions to deal with terrorism could be incorporated in a separate chapter in the National Security Act, 1980,” it added.

Asked what form the new legislation should take, Moily replied cryptically: “What was not there in POTA, we are providing it here. It is not POTA, not TADA, not MCOCA - it is a stand alone.”

The United Progressive Alliance government, soon after it came to power, had repealed the Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA) that had been enacted by the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government.

POTA, in turn, had replaced the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). MCOCA is the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act that many consider to be more draconian than TADA.

Under the title “A Federal Agency to Investigate Terrorist Offences”, the commission reiterated the recommendations made in its report on “Public Order” on creating a specialised division in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate terror offences.

“It should be ensured that this division of the CBI is staffed by personnel of proven integrity and who are professionally competent and have developed the required expertise in investigation of terrorism related offences,” the commission said.

“The autonomy and independence of this agency may be ensured through a laid down procedure of appointment and assured fixed tenure for its personnel,” the report added.

The BJP expressed its happiness over the ARC recommendation for a strong anti-terror law but refuted the suggestion for a federal agency to probe terror crimes.

“We believe that in the absence of a strict anti-terror law, this agency is of no use,” BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters here.

“We also want the government to clarify if Narayanan’s demand to approve state-specific anti-terror laws was rejected,” Rudy added.

According to BJP president Rajnath Singh, terror attacks had become frequent in India because the government had scrapped POTA.

“There is no country that does not have a strict anti-terror law. Take the example of Britain, it last amended its anti-terror law in 2005 to suit the times and to make it as strict as possible,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after visiting some of the victims of Saturday’s serial blasts here.

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