LS clears bill to tag individuals as terrorists

LS clears bill to tag individuals as terrorists

Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. PTI

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday cleared a bill to designate an individual as a terrorist and vest more powers with the National Investigation Agency (NIA), even as Opposition parties led by the Congress staged a walkout in protest ahead of its passage.

Responding to the members’ concerns during a debate on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019, Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah assured the Lok Sabha that its provisions won’t not be misused.

“The law will be used only to root out terrorism. It should not be misused. We will never misuse it,” he said.

The bill, which will now be taken to the Rajya Sabha for its nod, was passed by the Lok Sabha with a total of 287 votes in its favour. Just eight members, who did not join the Opposition walkout, voted against its passage.

Before the walkout, the Congress demanded that the bill be sent to either a parliamentary standing committee or a joint select committee for “thorough scrutiny”, pointing out that the implementation of the proposed amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, will have “far-reaching consequences”.

“We will then support it, but you are bulldozing (the Opposition) and getting the bills passed. We walk out,” Congress’ Leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

The bill, which seeks to enable the Union government to designate an individual as a terrorist, also provides for vesting powers with the NIA to attach the property of a person declared as a terrorist without requiring any clearance from the police chief of the state concerned.

An inspector-rank NIA officer will have the authority to investigate terror cases as per the provisions of the bill.

“We have always said that we must have the strictest laws to deal with terror. There is a need to designate as terrorists individuals who participate in terror activities, radicalise youth and lure them into such activities, help terrorists and provide funds to terrorists. Such a provision is there in the US, China, Israel, European countries and even in Pakistan,” the home minister said.

Shah lashed out at the Opposition for raising objections to the bill, saying “They spoke as if we have brought a law to harass people.”

He told the members that a person designated as terrorist will have options to file an appeal with the government. “If that doesn’t work, they can approach a committee of retired justice of high courts which will be set up to look into such cases. Besides, a person will always have the option to approach the court,” he said.

In his speech, Shah also lashed out at “urban Maoists”, saying the government has no sympathy for them.

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