The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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NDA allies, rivals seek terror-law revision

New Delhi, Feb. 2: NDA allies, in league with Opposition parties, are expected to mount a campaign for scrapping “some draconian” provisions in the anti-terrorism legislation, despite law minister Arun Jaitley’s assertion that there was no need for an amendment.

This comes in the wake of an uproar in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu over the misuse of the law that was enacted by a joint session of Parliament last year, bypassing the Rajya Sabha where the ruling alliance does not have a majority.

A private member’s Bill is likely to be introduced in the budget session of Parliament to amend the Act. Opposition parties are expecting support in passing the Bill from the allies and even a section of the BJP leadership.

The MDMK, an NDA ally, was the first victim of the Act — its chief Vaiko was arrested last July and is still languishing in jail. Vaiko’s friends in the DMK, the PMK, the Akali Dal and the Samata Party accused Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa of taking “vindictive” action.

MDMK leaders had recently submitted a memorandum signed by a crore people and leaders of various political parties, except the ADMK, to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, drawing his attention to the misuse of the Act meant to deal with terrorists.

In Uttar Pradesh, a section of BJP leaders and Union agriculture minister and Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh criticised the arrest of Independent MLA Raja Bhaiyya and his father, Udai Pratap Singh, under the anti-terror Act, allegedly at the behest of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayavati.

Senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Vinay Katiyar went on record, accusing chief minister Mayavati of misusing the Act, while Lok Janashakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan said he would talk to BJP allies and Opposition parties to get the draconian provisions removed.

“The time has come to plug the loopholes so that the anti-terror legislation can never be misused for political purposes,” said Samata spokesperson Shambhu Shrivastwa.

Shrivastwa said that though his party has no brief for Raja Bhaiyya, it was incorrect to book a person with criminal antecedents under an anti-terrorist Act. “Did they have a minister in the government for five years who had ISI and terrorist links' It appears (to be) a case of misuse of the law. We are of the view that political problems should not be sorted out through (any) administrative measures.”

Refusing to comment on Mayavati’s or Jayalaltihaa’s action, Jaitley said: “There is no need to change the provisions of the Act enacted to fight terrorism. All major democracies in the world have enacted even harsher laws to fight terrorism.”

Maintaining that there were sufficient in-built safeguards in the Act, Jaitley said a vigilant judiciary could take corrective steps.

Lambasting the law minister, Paswan said: “The victims could go to court' What does it mean' The law was made because the courts were taking a long time. There was a clause against journalists also. The Prime Minister had assured Parliament that it would not be misused, but what happened' Political opponents are booked under the Act. It appears IPC and CrPC have become redundant.”

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