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Centre readies terror shield for minister

New Delhi, Oct. 1: The home ministry has prepared a note stating that Union minister of state for non-conventional energy M. Kannappan cannot be arrested by the Tamil Nadu government under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The note for the Union council of ministers, especially the Prime Minister, says “law and order is a state subject under the scheme of the Constitution and rule of law” but this case involves “subversion, insurgency, treason and secessionism” in which the “Centre prevails”, ministry sources said.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa had recently announced that her government would have to arrest the MDMK minister for his public speech supporting the banned LTTE and asked the Prime Minister to dismiss him. Hectic political activity is on in the capital since.

MDMK ministers Kannappan and Gingee Ramachandran, along with party presidium chairman L. Ganesan, had met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee yesterday. Vajpayee reportedly asked the law ministry and the home ministry to prepare a note. The law ministry, too, has readied a similar note.

“Law minister Arun Jaitley, now in Budapest, Hungary, is slated to be back here tomorrow and a meeting is scheduled between him and Union home minister L.K. Advani,” an official source said.

This was the first time a chief minister had written to the Prime Minister seeking dismissal of a minister on the ground that he had to be arrested under the anti-terror law.

Sources said the home ministry note makes it clear that no chief minister can demand that a Prime Minister drop or include a minister. This is the “prerogative” of the Prime Minister in “our constitutional scheme”.

The note makes a subtle distinction between a minister and an MP. Vaiko, the head of Kannappan’s party and an MP, was arrested under the anti-terror law and is in jail for over a year now. “An MP is not directly involved in governance whereas a Union minister is. It is a constitutional office…. His arrest or chargesheeting cannot be done without involving the Centre,” a source said, quoting from the note.

Officials concerned with the matter were of the view that in granting sanction to prosecute, arrest or chargesheet a Union minister, the President “shall” act on the advice of the council of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said an early report of the review committee on the anti-terror law would prevent its “misuse”. “Pota is essential to check the menace of terrorism in the country. It was enacted by convening of a joint session of Parliament and now this cannot be repealed,” he said.

The Supreme Court had reserved its judgment on a petition by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking to strike down the anti-terror law as “unconstitutional”.

This matter was heard along with Vaiko’s petition challenging Section 21, under which he was arrested for making a speech supporting the LTTE.

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