The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi terror law leash on states

New Delhi, Oct. 21: Given a taste of its own medicine, the Centre has moved to put in safeguards to prevent misuse of the anti-terrorism law.

Under the darkening cloud of a possible arrest of Union minister for non-conventional energy M. Kannappan by the Tamil Nadu government under the law, the cabinet today decided to promulgate an ordinance making the central Prevention of Terrorism Act review panel’s opinion also binding on the states. The ordinance, when passed by Parliament, will give the panel this statutory power.

Cabinet spokesperson Sushma Swaraj, who is the minister for health and parliamentary affairs, said after the meeting that the ordinance would be promulgated soon.

The proposed ordinance is not clear on whether a state government can arrest a Union minister. The only relief seems to be that arrests would be reviewed by the central committee and if it opines that it was wrong or illegal, its opinion would be “binding” on the state government concerned.

After the arrest of ally MP Vaiko, the NDA government is again facing a crisis of sorts in relation to the anti-terror law with Jayalalithaa threatening to arrest Kannappan, of the MDMK, like Vaiko, for an alleged speech in support of the banned LTTE.

Ironically, the Centre had pushed the controversial law through in the face of stiff opposition in a rare joint session of Parliament.

Sources close to Kannappan said that in a meeting with representatives of the MDMK, DMK and the PMK — the BJP’s Tamil Nadu allies, the Prime Minister and his deputy had “promised” an ordinance to stop the “misuse” of the law. Swaraj said no time limit would be fixed for the review committee to give its opinion. Under the anti-terror act, states are required to establish their respective review panels. The central review committee, too, would now scrutinise the arrests and give its opinion, a method that Swaraj described as “check and balance” to avert the act’s misuse.

At present, the central review committee is scrutinising the arrest of Vaiko by the Tamil Nadu government, along with several other cases.

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