New Delhi: Parliament on Friday approved the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, which allows the Centre to designate individuals as terrorists and seize their properties. Urging members of the Rajya Sabha to pass the bill unanimously, home minister Amit Shah said that Parliament should send a unanimous and strong message to the world that terrorists are the enemies of humanity, and India is committed to wipe out terror from its soil.
Mr Shah also assured the House that the bill was aimed at fighting terror and had no other purpose, after many Opposition members raised concerns over designating individuals as terrorists. The home minister asserted that the amended law will help agencies remain “four steps ahead” of the terrorists.
The Rajya Sabha passed the bill, with 147 voting in its favour and 42 against. From the Opposition camp, the Congress and BSP supported the bill. The Congress had earlier said it was not against the law but was opposed to some amendments.
The Upper House earlier also rejected the Opposition-sponsored motion to send the ame-ndment to a select committee, with 104 votes against and 85 in favour, including the Congress. The Lok Sabha had passed the bill last week.
“Terrorism has no religion... terrorists are with no one, they are against humanity. Terrorists are not against any individual or any government, they are against humanity. Therefore, any stringent measure against them must be supported,” said Mr Shah, replying to the debate on the bill in the Upper House. He said individuals can be declared terrorists if they commit or participate in acts of terrorism, prepare or promote terror.
Accusing the Congress of giving colour to the law by linking terrorism to religion for political gain, Mr Shah alleged the Congress misused it to frame people linked to a particular religion, in the context of the Samjhauta and Mecca Masjid cases, where the accused have been acquitted by a court. Earlier, participating in the debate, Congress members, including Digvijay Singh, accused the BJP of trying to misuse the law and giving a communal colour to terrorism.
Hitting back, Mr Shah said the Congress had said it was important to identify terrorists and not just organisations, and said the Opposition party should not talk about misuse and it should look into its past. Mr Shah cited the example of the Emergency, when the Opposition leaders were jailed after the court struck down the election of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
On the Samjhauta Express blast case, raised by the Congress, Mr Shah said those accused under UPA rule were later released as the court did not find anything against them, and the Congress had registered “false” cases against them, keeping the elections in mind. He alleged the accused belonged to a certain religion and those of one religion were targeted under Congress rule.
Responding to the Opposition’s concerns over the law being misused, he assured that no one’s human rights will be violated as a four-stage scrutiny with a provision for appeals was prescribed when individuals are declared terrorists.
Attacking critics of the law, Mr Shah said those who were opposing the bill must remember that the original law was not brought by the present government and that the BJP had backed three amendment to the bill brought by the previous Congress-led governments.
He said declaring an organisation as terrorist would not stop individuals behind it. Not designating individuals as terrorists would give them an opportunity to circumvent the law and they would regroup under different names and continue to indulge in terrorist activities, he noted.
“Till the time a person is not declared a terrorist, there cannot be a check on such a person’s terror activities,” he said, reiterating that only those who participate in terrorist activities, indulge in such activities, propagate the ideology of terrorism and members of known terrorist organisations will be declared as terrorists after this amendment.