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Parliament passes anti-terror bills

December 18, 2008 23:05 IST

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Parliament on Thursday night, approved the setting up of a National Investigation Agency and strengthening of the law to deal with terrorism with the government saying these measures were necessary to ensure efficient probe and speedy trial without trampling human rights.

The Rajya Sabha passed the NIA Bill and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, which were approved by Lok Sabha on Wednesday, after a lengthy debate during which most parties expressed their support for such measures, while some members voiced reservations over certain clauses.

Winding up a six-hour debate on the two bills, Home Minister P Chidambaram said adequate care had been taken while drafting these bills to ensure that law enforcement agencies were empowered to effectively deal with the problem of terrorism, but at the same time respecting the rights of individuals and states. He said these measures were punitive in nature and not preventive as the Jehadi terrorists are not deterred by law because they are "ready to die and prepared to kill".

Chidambaram sought to make a distinction between the strengthened UAPA and Prevetion of Terrorism [Images] Act saying the provisions like the conditions for detention and granting of bail and proving of guilt were different. The main objectives of bringing the two new bills were to ensure speedy and efficient investigation, fair and speedy trial and deterrent punishment, he said adding these laws will apply only to eight acts and not to all crimes as it is not like the Central Bureau of Investigation or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The approval of the two bills by Parliament comes within three weeks of the Mumbai terror attacks which claimed around 180 lives.

As some members of  the Left pressed for certain amendments which were rejected, Chidambaram said the functioning of these measures would be assessed over the next three-four months and if there was need the government would "revisit" the laws.

Seeking to allay fears that the new law would encroach upon states' rights, Chidambaram said the new agency would take only the gravest cases having international ramifications. "We are not encroaching (upon) the states' autonomy, we are respecting their autonomy," he said.

The NIA more often than not will ask the state agency to associate with the investigation, he said adding it cannot be mandatory as local police in some cases could be suspected of "cover-up". He said there have been such cases in the past which he did not want to identify. He said the NIA would be a "lean and fit" agency comprising young and energetic officers with proven track record in investigation. Special courts will be set up for which judges will be appointed by the Chief Justice of India.To ensure uninterrupted trial, the judge of a special court will continue to function even after reaching the age of superannuation.

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