New Delhi: Parliament on Friday approved the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 that empowers the central government to designate individuals as terrorists if the person commits or participates in acts of terrorism with the Rajya Sabha passing it after a division.
With a division being pressed, 147 members voted for the legislation while 42 members voted against.. The Congress, which staged a walkout in Lok Sabha opposing the passage of the anti-terror law, voten in favour of the Bill in the Upper House. Trinamool Congress, the Left parties, the DMK, the MDMK, the RJD and other smaller parties voted against the Bill.
Earlier, a motion to send the Bill to the Select Committee was also negated after division with 104 votes against it as compared to 85 in favour. Opposing the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist, the Congress and several other opposition parties had urged the government to refer the Bill to the Select Committee for further scrutiny.
Responding to the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah justified the amendments and rejected opposition's contention that the Bill would be misused asserting that the sole purpose of the UAPA Bill was to fight terror.
He said terrorism had no religion and every member of the House should support to the Bill to send a strong message that India is united in the fight against terrorism. He also assured the House that no human rights will be violated as there were four-level-scrutiny provided in the Bill.
"This Bill is to fight terror and has no other purpose. I have only brought an amendment, I did not bring the law. We can be one step ahead of the terrorists only if we keep bringing in reforms. All the previous amendments had been brought in by the Congress. The moment they went to the other side, they change their perspective," he said in an apparent attack on Congress.
Rejecting objections raised by former Home Minister P Chidambaram, Shah said, " Chidambaram ji asked why name an individual as a terrorist when the organisation he is affiliated to is already banned. It is because we ban one organisation, another one comes up with the same individuals in it. Till when will we keep banning organisations?"
He said it was important to identify terrorists and not just organizations
He also took a dig at former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and claimed that he was angry because of losing the elections.
"Digvijaya Singh ji seems angry. It is natural, he just lost elections...He said 'in three cases of NIA no one was punished.' I will tell you why because earlier in these cases political vendetta was done and attempt was made to link a particular religion to terror," said Shah.
Singh had earlier pointed out three terror cases- Ajmer, Mecca and Samjhauta blast in which the accused were declared not guilty after the prosecution stated pressure from superiors.
Responding to the charges of misuse, Shah launched a scathing attack on Congress and said, "What happened during emergency? All media was banned, all opposition leaders were jailed. There was no democracy for 19 months, and you are accusing us of misusing laws? Kindly look at your past"
The Home Minister reminded the House about BJP's stand on UAPA amendments when it was in opposition and said the party always supported the government when it came to making stringent laws against terrorism.
Earlier participating in the debate, Congress objected to some of the provisions of the bill saying they are unconstitutional and against individual liberty.
Chidambaram termed "unconstitutional" the amendment and claimed that it will be struck down in the court of law as it violates an individual's liberty.
He also urged the government to refer the Bill to the Select Committee for further scrutiny and take suggestions from eminent legal experts for its constitutionality before being passed by the House.
He said it will be a "monumental error" if the Bill is passed as it would not stop here, indicating that the issue will be taken up in the Supreme Court.
"Let me caution you ...this will be struck down. Instead of listening to us here and making the necessary correction, you are forcing us to go about a kilometre away to another building and present it to another set of eminent gentlemen to strike it down," he said.
CPI-M's E Kareem said the Bill gives power to NIA to go to any state according to its will. Manoj Jha of RJD termed the Bill as draconian while PDP's Mohammad Fayaz said the Bill would mostly impact the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The AIADMK, the BJP and the YSR Congress supported the Bill while the BSP said it had no objections with the amendments if it was not misused.
The bill seeks to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Earlier, the government was only empowered to designate organisations, and not individuals, as a terrorist. The new provisions also empower the Director-General, National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the agency....