Ranchi, July 11: A monitoring committee of Jharkhand High Court has given a wake-up call to the state government to deliver justice to persons booked under Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and languishing behind bars, nearly eight years after the anti-terror law was repealed by the Centre.
A preliminary report compiled by the high court shows that at least 60 cases are still pending in the special court in Ranchi that was assigned for trials under Pota.
The number of persons involved in the cases — more than one for each — varies.
The panel, headed by Justice D.N. Patel, has directed home secretary J.B. Tubid to constitute a committee that is required under Section 60 of Pota for reviewing the pending cases and to deliver appropriate orders.
The high court committee was constituted by Chief Justice Prakash Tatia in May to monitor and expedite trial of persons booked under stringent legislation like Pota, Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Explosives and Arms Acts.
According to sources, the committee has also directed the home secretary to supply a fresh list of Pota cases within two weeks so that the actual number of pending cases can be ascertained.
Pota, which was repealed in 2004, was widely misused in Jharkhand. Over 200 persons, including minors, had been arrested since 2001 when the act was invoked to fight terror.
Human rights groups had then alleged that around 3,200 cases had been lodged while the government’s claim was that over 700 cases were lodged during the period.
After it was repealed, the law was not used to make any arrest. But those already charge sheeted under Pota continued to fight their cases and remained behind bars.
The then home minister, Shivraj Patil, had promised in 2004 that a special review panel would decide the fate of pending Pota cases within a year.
On June 20, Justice Patel held a meeting with Tubid, DGP G.S. Rath, IT secretary N.N. Sinha and other officials to discuss steps for speedy trial of the cases pending in various courts under the Explosives Substance Act, Arms Act, CLA Act and UAPA.
Sources said the panel had given a list of over 500 cases to Tubid, adding around 90 per cent of those booked under these laws happened to be tribals. The committee also wants speedy trial of the likes of Maoist politburo member Narayan Sanyal and others who are facing charges of subversive activities in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bengal and Bihar.
The panel has asked Tubid to take steps for production of the accused and take up the issue of sending the service reports of warrants of other states with his counterparts.
Tubid told The Telegraph, “The government will be taking all necessary steps to expedite the investigation and trial in cases booked under various anti-extremist laws.”
The panel has also asked the district judges to take up the matter regarding execution of warrants and processes issued against the accused and ensure the presence of witnesses in the district monitoring committee meetings.