The Gujarat Assembly, on Tuesday, passed a Bill to amend the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), 1985, and brought sexual offenders, those involved in usury, cyber criminals and gambling den operators within its ambit. The Bill – the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 – was passed by a majority vote amid opposition from Congress MLAs who alleged that the amended law will be misused by the government to silence its opponents.
Under PASA, a person can be kept under preventive detention for up to a year, following an order in that regard by the concerned police commissioner or district magistrate, on the basis of a proposal moved by police. Authorities have to intimate the PASA Advisory Board consisting of three retired High Court judges within 21 days of the detention.
An object statement of the Bill stated, “The Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, 1985, has been immensely useful in maintaining peace and order by detaining the anti-social elements. However, with the rapid growth of the State, law enforcement agencies are faced with challenges of new kinds of offenders viz. the sexual offenders, the cyber-crime offenders and money lenders lending money at the exorbitant rate of interest in clear violation of the provisions of the Gujarat Money Lenders Act, 2011, and causing the recovery of the moneys lent to the persons in need by resorting to myriad ways of recovery. Therefore, it is need of the hour to protect and safeguard the interests of the public at large from such challenges of the said offenders.”
The Bill was opposed by Congress MLAs and the party’s Jamalpur MLA, Imran Khedawala, alleged that the government will misuse the law to silence the voice of dissent in the state. He further alleged that many people who are running online campaigns against the government and its policies will be targeted through the Act.
Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani and a number of Congress MLAs criticized the situation of law and order in the state, while holding the government responsible for failing on that front. They alleged that the very fact that the government is bringing such a Bill meant that they have failed to effectively implement already available laws to curb the offences which are being brought under the ambit of the Bill.
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said that the government never wanted to misuse the Act asked the Congress what message they wanted to give by opposing the Bill.
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