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Super TADA for biggest ‘democracy’

An impatient Union Cabinet decided to to promulgate an ordinance called ‘Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance 2001’ in order to bring back through the back door, the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Bill 2000 (POTA), which has been in the pipeline for more than two years.

The NDA government had to drop the POTA Bill 2000 in Parliament two times earlier. The National Human Rights Commission also advised the government not to bring out such a draconian law. Now the BJP-led NDA government has promulgate the ordinance taking advantage of the US-manufactured war hysteria against terrorism.

Based on the much-criticized POTA Bill, 2001, the new ordinance is not a comprehensive anti-terrorist law as the Home Minister Advani describes it. The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance 2001 gives wide-ranging arbitrary powers to the investigating police officers. This ordinance has more draconian clauses in it than the notorious TADA had, which was allowed to expired under the pressure of strong democratic rights movement all over India.

The TADA, first introduced in 1985, itself gave government and police officials such sweeping powers that any alleged terrorist could be arrested and kept behind bars for years on end without allowing him to seek the normal judicial intervention. Past records show that incompetent police forces, incapable of controlling crime, often employed TADA in ordinary cases. Statistics reveal that as many as two out of three TADA detenus had to be acquitted by courts for want of evidence and that only 1.1% of those who were tried could be awarded punishment for some crime or the other. That even all these were terrorists remains doubtful. In Gujarat, one of the states where TADA was widely employed, there was not a trace of ‘terrorist’ activity. Even so, the number of TADA detenus was the largest there. According to the Act, statements recorded by the police in custody were acceptable to the courts as prosecution evidence.

TADA – an acknowledged tool to suppress people’s democratic rights – did not serve its professed purpose. Yet it is being restored in a more stringent form as POTA (the Ordinance). Each clause guaranteeing rights to citizens’ freedom happens to be accompanied by counter clauses, which restrict that freedom. The Preventive Detention Act is one such restriction, which, in fact, dates back to the period of British colonialism. Since 1947, a series of draconian laws were incorporated, including the MISA, DIR, NSA and finally, the TADA and of course the Emergency of 1975 which was lifted within a span of less than two years, yet the Preventive Detention Act has remained in force till this day. Moreover, many laws were framed one after the other during the last 25 years to curb our civil rights.

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