Experts have sounded the alarm that this bill can be misused.
In an effort to uproot terror and keep law enforcement agencies a step ahead of terrorists, the Lok Sabha has passed the ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019’. Under this bill, which was tabled on Tuesday by Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy, individuals ‘suspected’ of having terror links will be designated as terrorists.
However, the opposition staged a walkout as they wanted the bill to be sent to the Parliament standing committee for a thorough look. The Home Minister Amit Shah defended the bill saying the UPA in its tenure had amended the anti-terror laws, so the NDA was doing nothing wrong. Shah said the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2019 was necessary in the war against terrorism. “The only purpose of this law is to root out terrorism. We will ensure that this law will not be misused,” he said.
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The bill also allows the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to attach properties linked to a terror investigation without taking permission from the state police. Under the original Act, according to Hindustan Times, the central government may designate a group as a terrorist organization if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
However, experts have sounded the alarm that this bill can be misused. A retired IPS officer, S.R. Darapuri to The Print that the Act gives the state the power to persecute people’s ideologies by designating individuals as terrorists. Darapuri explained that our terror-related laws broadly specifiy that unless an offence takes place or there is an overt mover pertaining to terror-related activities, no action can be taken. The retired officer gave an example of a 2007 case whereby an activist, Seema Azad from Uttar Pradesh, and her husband were arrested for being ‘Maoist sympathizers’. The evidence presented against them was ‘Maoist literature’.
But the Home Minister has no softness for Maoists. In fact, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party coined the term ‘urban Maoism’ to describe people supporting and sympathizing left-wing extremism. “In the name of ideology, some people promote urban Maoism. We have no sympathy for them,” Shah said. “The only purpose of this law is to ‘root out terrorism’,” he said.
Darapuri argues that there will now be a witch hunt because the scope of who qualifies as a terrorist has increased.