Circulation of counterfeit currency will now be terrorist act
Offences that threaten India's economic security including circulation of counterfeit currency will now be a terrorist act, as a bill in this regard was cleared by Parliament today.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2012, passed by the Rajya Sabha by voice vote amid a walk out by Left parties, JD-U and RJD, also provides for extended period for ban on an association from current two years to five years. Lok Sabha has passed the bill earlier.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said an individual, group of individuals and an association who are involved in counterfeit currency circulation will be covered under the law and is not against innocent people. The other salient features of the bill include expansion of the definition of terrorist act to include acts that involve detention, abduction, threats to kill or injure, or other actions so as to compel an international or inter-governmental organisation to comply with some demand.
The bill would cover those involved in procurement of weapons, raising funds for terrorist activities and counterfeiting Indian currency. It would also cover offences by companies, societies or trusts.
That apart, courts would be given additional powers to provide for attachment or forfeiture of property equivalent to the counterfeit Indian currency involved in the offence or to the value of proceeds of terrorism involved in the offence.
Seeking to allay apprehensions expressed by members, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh said the amended law will not be misused. "This bill is against terrorism and terrorists. I assure that the bill is religion neutral... Terrorism is not just about guns, it is also about attack on a country's economy," he said.
The CPI-M had moved an amendment seeking to take trade unions out of the purview of this Act but it was negated by a majority 79 members out of 107 present. 28 members voted in favour of the amendment.
The amendment moved by BJP to include NGOs under it so that their foreign funding also comes under scanner for its misuse in terrorist activities was withdrawn.
The junior Home Minister said that terrorism is on rise and affecting economic security. Hence, the bill has been amended to curb economic offences in line with the suggestions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a 34-member global body, that chalks out policies to counter financial frauds.
India is among six Asian countries who are member of the FATF, he said. Allaying apprehensions of some members, the minister said there is no "gender bias" and both male and female individuals involved in a terrorist act would be covered under this law.
He assured members that the bill will not be used against innocent individuals. "There are no such clauses and we are not giving enormous power to police. There are so many safeguards, there are no chances to misuse," he said.
Interrupting the minister's reply, members of CPI, CPI(M) and JD-U sought further clarification on the bill, while two of them - one each from BJP and CPI-M - moved amendments.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury wanted to know reasons for bringing back three provisions like enhancing period for which an association involved in terrorist acts will be declared unlawful, which were part of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and were opposed.
Responding to his query, Singh said, "This bill has nothing to do with other laws (like POTA). It is to prevent counterfeit currency that is weakening our economy." Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said even POTA was religion neutral but the 'draconian' law was misused, while D Raja (CPI) asked the government to "defer the bill for wider consultation before passing it in hurry."
To this demand, the Minister said, "All recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee are taken into consideration."