The Opposition on Thursday criticised the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019 in Rajya Sabha, saying it does not clearly state as to how a person would be labelled a terrorist and that the provision could be misused.
The Congress-led Opposition demanded the Bill be sent to a select committee for further discussion, as in the current form it could be struck down by the court.
Speaking during the debate on the Bill, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said it could be misused to label anyone as a terrorist. “I support this Bill if you agree to send this to a select committee. Otherwise I oppose it,” Sibal said. He said every member in the House is against terrorism but at the same time it was the responsibility of all parties to see that the law is not misused.
Citing previous anti-terror laws like TADA and POTA, Sibal said there were several instances where such laws were misused in the country. “Misuse happens… We want to fight terrorism but we should also know what is happening on the ground… the Bill will be challenged in the Court and struck down… then again it will have to be brought to Parliament… it is endless process,” Sibal said. “We are not against the Bill but how will you label a person terrorist? It is not clear in the Bill.”
Sibal said it is the prerogative of the Opposition to protest against certain provisions of the Bill which they think are not right. “We have lost two Prime Ministers, one Chief Minister to terrorism. Nobody has suffered more than us. Still we know that we should not misuse such laws,” he said.
Opposing the Bill, TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said there was no need to bring the legislation when the UAPA Act was already there. He said the Bill would be used to target people who are critical of the government. People would be labelled as “urban Naxals” and part of “tukde-tukde gang” and brought under the purview of this Bill, he said.
SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav said there should be no ambiguity in the Bill.
Intervening in the debate, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the government has brought the Bill to designate individuals engaged in terror activities as terrorists. The minister said those like Masood Azhar have been designated as international terrorists and the Bill would help the government to label such individuals as terrorists.
AIADMK member S Muthukaruppan supported the Bill, saying it is essential to counter terrorism inside and outside the country.
BJD’s Prasanna Acharya also backed the legislation and said it has been brought at very appropriate time. However, he said the government should learn from history and “never try to misuse this law”.
Supporting the Bill, JD(U)’s Ramnath Thakur suggested that the NIA be made powerful as the FBI of the US.
In his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha, MDMK leader Vaiko vehemently opposed the Bill, saying it would strangle the voice of minorities and all those who love freedom. He said that laws like POTA, TADA and sedition have been misused by various governments in the past. Vaiko said the amendment Bill is highly “undemocratic”, “unconstitutional” and “unwarranted”. He said that the legislation usurps the power of states and said the country should be called “United States of India”.
The debate will continue on Friday.