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'Anti-terror law needs to stand the test of time'

December 18, 2008 10:53 IST

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India must have a root and branch review of its anti-terror laws including police powers to deal with terror attacks like the one in Mumbai, a London-based anti-terror law expert has said.

"The review should be coordinated federally. It should be wide ranging and robust. If we are to prevent another Mumbai, this time no stone should be left unturned," leading UK terrorism barrister Tanveer Qureshi told media persons in London [Images] on Wednesday night.

He recalled that after the Jaipur [Images] terrorist attack in May 2008, Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images], in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], had pointed out that 'states have been rendered helpless' without proper legal backing to deal with such situations.

"While many nations across the world strengthened their anti-terror laws after the 9/11 incident, India has taken retrograde steps by abolishing POTA."

In the aftermath of the 7/7 terror attacks in the UK, the British Government has passed a series of anti-terror laws designed both to deal with and prevent terrorist acts. In the US, in the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act was passed providing the authorities with wide ranging powers to investigate stop and search those suspected of terrorist acts, he said.

"Inevitably there has been opposition to the laws; some of this opposition has been based on well-founded fears by minority groups that they will be the community most affected by these laws. Certainly Muslims living in India voiced such concerns in relation to the now repealed Indian Prevention of Terrorism [Images] Act," he added.

Qureshi said such concerns should not preclude the passing of anti-terror laws, but equally the concerns should be addressed and reflected in the law so as to ensure that when applied, the law is used fairly and properly.

Police powers should be sufficient but at the same time checks and balances should be put in place to prevent abuse. One of the chief reasons POTA was repealed was primarily because police powers were not developed and reviewed to accommodate the robust and wide ranging provisions of POTA.

"If there is to be law, it needs to stand the test of time, it needs to be tough, but at the same time proportionate, commanding respect from all," he said.

"POTA clearly did not stand the test of time, but in any event it was confusing and riddled with contradictions. It did not have in place the complimentary police powers and nor did it address properly the causes of terrorism, too much emphasis was placed on what to do when an offence came to light as opposed to stopping it happening in the first place."

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