A SPECIAL lecture was delivered at the Centre for Competitive Examinations, Panjab University, by Professor Ujjwal Singh of Delhi University.Speaking on ‘National Security Laws and Democracy in India’, Singh presented an overview of the national security legal regimes for countering terror in India. He argued that the anti-terror laws in India had passed through three phases, each manifesting the distinct political context of the time and the kind of challenges that terrorism was seen as presenting to political authority. The first phase saw the enactment of Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1985.
It manifested a phase where a single federal/Central law was enacted with the specific purpose of countering the separatist movement confined to Panjab and its adjoining states. With the events of September 11, 2001, in the USA, followed closely by the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13 in the same year, the anti-terror legal regime in India accommodated itself in the burgeoning international consensus over the Bush doctrine of ‘spreading democracy’, assuring ‘enduring freedom’ and liberty, and ‘making the world safe for democracy’.
Then, Singh said, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was enacted in 2002. It was a reflection of this consensus. The repeal of POTA in September 2004, a rare occasion when an extraordinary law was repealed, was followed by the amendment of an ordinary law, as distinct from a special law to address the extraordinary contexts of terrorism, the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act 1967, importing into UAPA specific features of repealed POTA. Coincident with the announcement of the repeal, a process of decentralisation of the legal regime for countering terror unfolded, with the states bringing in separate laws to address their specific concerns, which signifies the third phase.
Singh said laws enacted in India should reflect democratic values and should have substantive details about crime, procedure of investigation and quantum of punishment. He emphasised that the extraordinary laws should have extraordinary safeguards to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens.