| Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati/Imphal/Shillo-ng, Feb. 10: Dispur has decided to approach the Centre seeking a review of a recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which has held that mere membership of a banned outfit would not attract criminal action.
Sources said the state government was already in touch with Delhi to approach a larger bench of the Supreme Court seeking a review of the recent ruling.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said the ruling would have dangerous consequences in a state like Assam, which is insurgency-affected. He said the ruling would only encourage anti-national or secessionist mindset among the younger generation.
The Supreme Court had last week observed that membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to indulge in violence or creates public disorder by violence.
The apex court’s ruling was part of a judgment acquitting Arup Bhuyan, who was convicted by a Guwahati-based designated court now under the lapsed anti- terror law — Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
Bhuyan was a suspected member of the banned Ulfa and arrested under Tada in 1991. In 2007, the trial court in Guwahati convicted Bhuyan based on his confession to police, which was admissible as evidence under Tada. Bhuyan made an appeal in the Supreme Court, which finally said the conviction was on “a very weak kind of evidence” and could not be sustained in the absence of collaborative material.
The Supreme Court observed that since the police use third degree method for extracting confessions, the courts in the country have to be cautious in accepting the confessions of the alleged accused.
“The judgment that supporters of any banned organisation are not punishable by law will inspire the anti-Indian and secessionist forces in the days to come. I think this verdict by the apex court calls for a review,” the chief minister said.
Sources in the state home department said the government cannot wait till each individual member of a banned outfit commits acts of violence. He said if anybody becomes a member of such an outfit, he or she also is very much aware of its rules and objective.
According to the source, the entire Northeast, which is the worst victim of insurgency, would also be affected by the ruling. There are 13 militant outfits in the region banned by the Union home ministry.
A home department official said the outfits are banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, under which, a person need not indulge in or incite violence to be treated as a criminal.
“By becoming a mere member of a banned organisation, such a person will attract imprisonment for up to two years,” he said.
Meghalaya, however, is yet to take a call on the issue but officials are equally concerned.
Home minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh said he would first study the order of the Supreme Court before making a stand on the matter. “We want to know in what context the apex court made the observation before making the stand of the government clear. I am calling for records from the officers in this regard,” Lyngdoh said.
However, a senior government official said the order of the Supreme Court would have far reaching consequences and would prevent the government to effective legal steps to check the violent activities of the members of various militant groups in the state.
The Okram Ibobi Singh government to wants a review of the Supreme Court order, maintaining this could encourage many youths to join militant organisations.
“The Assam government has taken the right decision. We will try to join hands in this regard with other chief ministers of the Northeast, where militancy exists,” government spokesperson and irrigation and flood control minister N. Biren Singh said.
Manipur has more than 30 militant groups on official record.