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Centre may agree to amend POTA
Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi |
February 20, 2003 21:01 IST
The Centre is exploring the possibility of amending the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act, but wants the opposition to initiate the move, according to sources.
The government is under severe pressure on the alleged misuse of the draconian law against political opponents. Not only the opposition, but also sections of the National Democratic Alliance and even the Bharatiya Janata Party are upset with this misuse.
The opposition staged noisy walkouts in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Following this, Union Minister of State for Home Harin Pathak told the Lower House that the government has sought details from various state governments of the arrests made by their police forces under the law.
Samajwadi Party member Ramjilal Suman raised the matter in the Lok Sabha during zero hour. He said Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani had admitted in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that POTA had been misused in some cases.
Suman recalled the manner in which the NDA government had convened a special joint session of Parliament to pass the controversial law. At that time, he said, Advani had repeatedly assured members that it would never be misused.
Somnath Chatterjee, leader of the Communist Party of India, Marxist, in Parliament, said his fears of misuse of the law had proved correct.
Reading out a report in a national daily that a 12-year-old child and an 81-year-old man are among the 200 persons arrested so far under POTA in the NDA-ruled state of Jharkhand, Chatterjee said that if people could be arrested for possessing the Red Book and the Communist Manifesto, he [Chatterjee] too ought to be behind bars.
Congress chief spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said, "If the law cannot be ended, it should be at least amended."
Palani Manikam of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam asked Defence Minister George Fernandes in his capacity as convener of the NDA if he agreed with Marumalarchi DMK leader Vaiko's arrest under POTA. The DMK and MDMK are both constituents of the NDA.
Later, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters that if members had any suggestion to make, the government was willing to convene an all-party meeting on the subject.
BJP spokesman Vijay Malhotra said his party would welcome suggestions for amendments to POTA that do not dilute its provisions against terrorists. He said the law ought not to be applied to ordinary criminals. He added that the BJP could request the government to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.