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Debate over terror law

New Delhi, April 3: The Centre’s right to enact laws such as the anti-terror legislation was questioned today in the Supreme Court.

During hearings on the constitutional validity of the Act, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) argued that “maintenance of public order” was a state subject and state legislatures alone were competent to bring a law on the issue.

Appearing for the PUCL, senior counsel Rajendar Sachar also said a similar legislation, even if enacted by a state, could be struck down.

Sachar, a former chief justice of Delhi High Court, cited a 1960 enactment of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature that was struck down by the Supreme Court.

A division bench of Justices Rajendra Babu and G.P. Mathur was hearing petitions challenging the validity of the Act and certain provisions of the legislation.

MDMK leader Vaiko, held in Vellore prison in Tamil Nadu under the anti-terror law, has challenged the validity of Section 21 of the Act. Senior counsel A.K. Ganguly will argue Vaiko’s case.

after PUCL completes its arguments.

Attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee, who is waiting for his turn to speak, said the controversial affidavit of the Centre holding that Vaiko’s speech supporting the LTTE “constituted an offence of terrorism” under the anti-terror law was drafted “wrongly”.

“My juniors did not draft it. The juniors in the Central law agency drafted it. However, I corrected it. In fact, I myself have given opinion in early January that mere speech does not amount to an offence under Pota (as the anti-terror law is known),” he said.

While Vaiko wants only Section 21 of the law to be struck down as unconstitutional, PUCL argues that the entire law is bad in the light of the Constitution.

When Sachar pointed out that a similar law was struck down in 1960, the bench observed: “Those were the days when AK-47s and AK-56s were never heard of... and the amazing capability of these weapons to kill 40-50 people at one go.… Then, perhaps, terrorism was attack with a knife or a sword.”

Sachar argued that two-thirds of the states had already rejected the law and said they would not implement it. “Is it not a mockery of law'” he asked

The bench shot back: “Won’t we make a mockery of national security without a law on terrorism'”

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