Are terror laws just? Civil society debates

“Human rights are for human beings,” Joginder Singh,former CBI director provocatively said,“Not for inhuman terrorists.” Singh was speaking at the half-day seminar on “Refugee Protection at a Time of Crisis: Migrants,Terrorists...

Written by Vinay Sitapati | New Delhi | Published:January 19, 2009 11:19 pm

“Human rights are for human beings,” Joginder Singh,former CBI director provocatively said,“Not for inhuman terrorists.”

Singh was speaking at the half-day seminar on “Refugee Protection at a Time of Crisis: Migrants,Terrorists,and Refugees in India”,organised by the Public Interest Legal Support and Research Centre (PILSARC) in association with the Delhi Administration Officers Academic Forum (DAOAFA),on Saturday.

Singh was defending the tough new anti-terror laws the UPA government has passed but his comments drew sharp responses. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the new laws were draconian,while senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan said no false dichotomy should be made between human rights and the police. “The choice is not between a hard or soft state but between an intelligent or stupid state,” Varadarajan said. He said there has been very little application of the mind with regard to fixing systems that don’t work in India and are leading to terrorism.

To this suggestion,former Punjab top cop K P S Gill said it would be a case of the “Stockholm Syndrome” — to start “appreciating the terrorists”.

Sharp exchanges characterised much of the seminar. At one point,when Gill accused the “debate in this room” of being “disconnected from ground reality”,Supreme Court senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said: “Mr Gill,it is you who is disconnected from reality. When you walk into police stations,the policeman will get up and salute you. When I walk in… the reaction is very different.”

K Mahesh,seminar co-organiser and DAOAFA president,said,“Our purpose was to get opposing views to clash,to make sure there was true and lively debate.”

Apart from the terror laws,the seminar also focussed on refugees and illegal immigration. India,like Pakistan,has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. Despite the lack of statutory protection,Indian courts have been at the forefront in providing some measure of refugee protection to people threatened with deportation. Though there is a lack of specific legal protection,judicial protection is offered on an individual case basis,when needed.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees’ chief in India,Montserrat Feixas Vihe,said the global number of refugees is increasing,and that these refugees are essentially victims of terrorism — and not perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

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