AFTER facing flak from activists and opposition parties for some of the provisions in the draft Maharashtra Protection of Internal Security Act (MPISA), the state government said on Wednesday that it was still at the proposal stage and needs to be debated, before enacting it into a law.
Since August 21, when the draft MIPSA was made public, several activists and members of civil society have argued against what they term are “draconian clauses” and which they allege make the state a “police state”, and interferes with civil rights including privacy and right to protest.
At a press meet on Wednesday, K P Bakshi, Additional Chief Secretary Home, flanked by senior IPS officials, compared the “current uproar” to the years when another stringent Act, MCOCA, was being framed.
Saying the new Act is still in the proposal stage he appealed members of the society to engage in a “healthy debate” over each clause of the draft Act. Bakshi said it was important to read the full draft Act before forming opinions, even as he recalled the current uproar to a similar phase in 1999 when provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), was being firmed up.
Answering a question, he said, “Ask your elders. These were the months in 1999. They will tell you the Act had generated equal debate and opposition. Aren’t we happy with the Act today? Even then everyone had argued tooth and nail.” He added, “Today look at the results. This will also take time.”
Baskhi said the need for a separate internal security mechanism for the state was felt looking at the large porous coastal border, and the threat perception the financial capital holds as it hosts some of the most sensitive addresses. “Even the police to population ratio is weak. We are worse than Delhi.” Bakshi argued as he sought to build a case for the proposed new law.
Bakshi said it took a whole year for experts, police officials and legal architects to put their heads together to frame the clauses (it is learnt to have been modelled on the Andhra Pradesh Internal Security Laws). It was only in the middle of September-October that the draft clauses crossed the corridors of the Mantralaya with “Intelligence officials visiting for a two-hour presentation at the Home Department,” revealed Bakshi.
While the first draft that followed was long, with particular clauses lacking clarity and several areas needing legal explanation, the draft was sent back for revision. Between September 2015 and June 2016, it is believed to have gone through six meetings where several areas were tweaked. “The skeleton has to be foolproof, dynamic, such that it doesn’t require any changes even after a decade,” Bakshi said. “The new Government, particularly the Chief Minister, has asked to only bring it to the table after suggestions from the public have been taken on board,” he said.
The draft was still only at the “bureaucratic level and was yet to be discussed at the ministerial level,” he said.
As for the clause relating to police setting limits and taking action on public protests and dissents, which has irked many activists, Bakshi said, “If you object, raise objections… But make it healthy. Do not say things without a prior reading of the Bill…”
The draft Act also emphasises security audits, which officials chose to define as the “need of the hour”.
The audit will decide if a particular installment requires the same level of security or an upgrade.
Another aspect the draft Act defines is inclusion of various threat perceptions on all the state’s crucial and sensitive assets.