New Delhi, Feb. 19: An angry Opposition today walked out of the Rajya Sabha in protest against the “misuse” of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Uttar Pradesh.
The use of the Act against Independent legislator Raghuraj Pratap Singh created a furore, more so because the Opposition saw it as deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s failure to honour his assurance given in Parliament that the law would not be misused. Advani countered the charge, saying: “There is nothing on record to say that Pota has been misused in Uttar Pradesh. Let the court tell.”
Opposition members charged the deputy Prime Minister with not keeping his word. “When the Act was passed by Parliament, the home minister gave an assurance that it would not be misused. Now the home minister is hiding behind technicalities and says that he meant the Centre will not misuse it. The minister is not doing justice,” Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said.
Earlier I.D. Swamy, junior minister in the home ministry, had informed the House that Raghuraj Pratap, his father Udai Pratap Singh, and Akshay Pratap Singh committed offences under the Act and action has been taken against them under the law. He also said that implementation of the Act was the responsibility of the state government or the Union Territory administrations.
Congress member Manmohan Singh, the leader of the Opposition in the House, expressed his unhappiness at Swamy’s reply, saying: “This is a serious question. I regret to say the minister is evading the issue. It is hardly the way to treat the House.”
Advani explained that the Centre had not misused the Act and since India had a federal Constitution, states had the final say on issues such as law and order. “I am not hiding behind technicality, but the Centre and the state government’s authority are clearly defined,” he said.
But the explanation failed to placate the Opposition. “The government uses Pota for national interest and withdraws it citing public interest,” Kapil Sibal of the Congress said, referring to the case of Iftikar Geelani, the Kashmir Times bureau chief who was arrested and then released by the government. The government had made a mess of the case.
Responding to a suggestion from Sibal that the Centre should set up a review committee on the lines of the one constituted to go into the now defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, Advani said: “I will consider it.”