Human Rights

POTA convict gets 14 years jail term

A Delhi court on 10 January announced 14-year jail term to Jafar Umar Khan convicted under the anti-terror law (POTA) for raising money for terror outfits including Hizbul Mujahedden. Notably, this is the third case in a month decided under POTA. In Its verdict the court said, "The convict before this court has been found assisting terrorist outfits in collecting funds for their members. It is imperative that such foot soldiers of terrorist groups are suitably neutralised for their activities to be checked and controlled." According to Additional Session Judge R K Gauba, Jafar was arrested in 2003 in possession of Rs 4 lakh hawala money. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 20000 on Jafar Umar Khan along with 14-year jail term.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was enacted in March 2002 as a mechanism to deal with terror threats in the aftermath of 9/11 and the attack on India's Parliament in 2001. From then onwards questions were raised by various groups over its use and misuse and it is even opposed by some till date for one reason or the other. The reasons are obvious as this law had spoiled the lives of thousands of innocent people. It becomes evident from the fact that from 1987 to 1995 the period when TADA was in force the conviction rate was negligible.

When TADA was in place, 77000 persons all over India were arrested and out of them 72000 were later on released without any trial as there was not enough evidence to even chargesheet them. But they were all put in jail for long periods and tortured to confess. Surprisingly, among those who were actually prosecuted, the conviction rate was hardly 1.8 per cent. According to an earlier estimate there were 440 persons behind bars under the POTA act. The maximum POTA accused were from Maharashtra (93), followed by Jharkhand (90), Gujarat (83), Delhi (46), Tamilnadu (42) and Andhra Pradesh (36). POTA is presently applicable in 10 states namely Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat,Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. In Gujarat, Narendra Modi Government had invoked POTA against 123 Muslims for the Godhra carnage but not against any of the Hindus involved in the anti-Muslim pogrom that followed. However, so far it has not been established whether POTA has been effective in curbing the threat of terrorism, particularly from across the border. Human rights groups have opposed the law on the ground that the law posed a serious threat to individual freedoms and fundamental rights as enshrined in our Constitution

MG News Desk

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2011 on page no. 11

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