Draconian, undemocratic

Draconian constitution

Approval by President Ramnath Kovind for the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GUJCTOC) bill puts on the statute book retrograde legislation that in letter and spirit is against the basic principles of constitutional democracy. It is a new version of a bill which was first passed by the Gujarat Assembly in 2002 when Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state. Different versions of the bill were returned by Presidents APJ Abul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, and Pranab Mukherjee sat for a long time on another version, leading to its withdrawal by the home ministry. The Gujarat government has persisted with the bill all these years, and though there have been different versions, it has remained much the same as the original one. It is unfortunate that a bill which was disapproved by three past Presidents has been given assent to by the present President without any questions.  

The bill has some draconian provisions that go against the canons and norms of the rule of law and democracy. It turns upside down the basic principle of jurisprudence that says that a person is innocent until proved guilty, and puts the onus on the accused to prove his innocence. The bill also makes it almost impossible for an accused to prove his innocence. Confessions before police officers and intercepted communications will be accepted as evidence by courts under this law. This means anyone can be picked up by the police, made to confess to a crime, presented to the court as a terrorist and punished. Bail conditions have been made extremely difficult. The government and its officers will be immune from accountability for any action “taken in good faith.’’ The provisions of the bill militate against the basic freedoms and rights granted by the Constitution to the citizens. It is practically the dreaded POTA by another name. 

The provisions of the bill are liable to be misused. The Gujarat police has a longstanding reputation for fake encounters and illegal killings on unconvincing charges of terrorism. This law will strengthen its hands and make it more trigger-happy and unaccountable. The idea that such draconian laws are needed to fight terrorism is wrong. Draconian laws will actually encourage and give rise to terrorism. Such laws are usually used to harass and persecute innocent people, and minorities, Dalits and weaker sections are mostly the victims. The State has no right to assume the powers of the court. The constitutional rights of citizens should not be abridged and due process of law should not be circumvented in the name of fighting terrorism. This law should have no place in a free and democratic society. 

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