The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror bill carrot for Tamil allies

New Delhi, Dec. 15: The Centre has decided to introduce two bills to repeal the Anti-Defection Law and amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The announcement by the NDA — which held a meeting with coalition members today — sought to pacify the DMK and MDMK.

The act has long been a source of friction between the BJP and its Tamil Nadu allies. Their scepticism was fuelled by ADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s enthusiastic support for the law.

MDMK leader Vaiko’s arrest under the act confirmed their reservations.

Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters that both the DMK and the MDMK have “agreed” to support the amended bill “because they see it as a step forward and an improvement over the earlier one”.

NDA sources, however, said the DMK “did not seem 100 per cent assured” and had voiced its earlier reservations at the meeting. Union law minister Arun Jaitley reportedly held a separate meeting with DMK leader and Union minister T.R. Baalu later.

A debate and vote on the bill are slated to be held in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.

The new clause makes recommendations of review committees at the central and state levels final and binding. If differences arise between the two, the views of the central committee will prevail.

Swaraj suggested that the NDA allies had no choice but back the amendment bill. “The choice is between disapproval leading to status quo and approval which would be an improvement over the previous bill.” The earlier law had no provision for a review.

The minister also made it clear that “there is no question of repealing it (the act) within a year”.

Swaraj said the government was not inclined to consider Vaiko’s suggestion that the word “support” in the anti-terror law be re-defined to mean not just verbal support for activities which qualified its application but also logistical support for men and material.

Referring to Vaiko, who was accused of speaking in support of the LTTE at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu, Jaitley said: “As far as we are concerned, even speech is a form of incitement.”

The meeting also agreed to back the 97th Constitution Amendment Bill, which will nullify the earlier anti-defection law seeking to recognise a one-third split in a party as lawful.

Members wanting to leave a party will have to forego their membership and seek re-election under a new symbol before they can hold an office of profit and position.

A split will be treated as legal only if it is an “ideological” one involving a division in the original party and not just its parliamentary and legislative wings.

Blow to Vaiko

A division bench hearing a Tamil Nadu government appeal at the residence of Justice V.. Sirpurkar set aside a Madras High Court order granting Vaiko permission to take part in tomorrow’s debate in Parliament on the anti-terror law amendment bill.

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