The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror law boot on Cong foot

Jaipur, April 1: The Congress, which opposed the anti-terror law in Delhi, is pushing a Bill in Rajasthan that is more stringent than the central legislation.

The Bill, when enacted, will allow detention of a person for one year without trial, unlike the Prevention of Terrorism Act that allows a detainee to seek bail after six months of detention.

The Rajasthan Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Bill 2003 was introduced in the Assembly yesterday by home minister Gulab Singh Shaktawat without any objection from any party.

The Bill, once passed into law, will authorise the state to put a person in preventive detention up to one year if the district administration considers him or her “dangerous” to the maintenance of public order.

It “provides for preventive detention of bootleggers, dangerous persons, drug offenders and immoral traffic offenders and property grabbers for preventing their anti-social and dangerous activities prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.

Although today was the last day of the Assembly’s budget session, the passage of the Bill was not mentioned in the list of business for the day. The state appeared to be willing to adopt the Bill later, or maybe through an Ordinance. The draft Bill shows it was introduced in the House according to the Governor’s wish.

According to the statement of objects and reasons for the Bill, enactment of a special law was considered necessary because the existing provisions of the National Security Act 1980, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 and the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 were insufficient to detain such persons as mentioned in the Bill.

The Bill also provides for authorising district collectors to arrest and detain such a person, who will be told within seven days the reasons for his detention so he can appeal before the state government. But the Bill does not require the authority concerned to disclose any fact that it considers to be against public interest. So the Bill gives enormous latitude to district authorities.

According to the Bill, the state would, whenever necessary, set up one or more advisory boards for the implementation of the Act. Such a board would comprise a sitting or a retired high court judge as chairman and two other members, also sitting or retired judges or who are qualified under the Constitution to be appointed a high court judge.

The detainee, however, will not be entitled to engage an advocate to appear for him before the advisory board. The state, on the basis of the board’s recommendations, would decide the period of detention. The Bill authorises the state to release the detainee before the completion of the detention period.

Several states already have similar legislations, such as the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act. The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in Bengal had wanted to enact a similar law but backed out in the face of opposition from within the ruling combine itself.

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