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Home > India > News > Columnists > Mahesh Vijapurkar

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We need enforcement, not anti-terror laws

September 18, 2008

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The country does not need, Mr M Veerappa Moily, a new law that your Administrative Reforms Commission has now recommended to tackle the menace of terrorism.

Right now what we need, as much as we needed them all along in the life of this nation, is proper law enforcement. Also, the law enforcement has to be done legally. That seems a little odd when said, but that's what we need.

We have had a string of stringent laws, each of them replacing their predecessor on the statute with some enhanced element to curb terrorism and disruption. And yet again, you have suggested something that is not a revival of the Prevention of Terrorism [Images] Act in a new avatar but something that is 'different'.

Remember the country had the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1973? We used that only to curb freedoms. Then we moved to more stringent laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, 1985, which even defined, against the backdrop of terror in Punjab during the secessionist movement, terrorist and counter-terror activities.

Then came POTA and states like Maharashtra have their own stringent laws like Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act since 1999.

And yet, where are we in our fight against terror?

Nowhere.

Even in Maharashtra where MCOCA exists and which Gujarat wants to replicate it with its own nuances but has been denied that by the Centre, has had more than its share of terrorism. It is nowhere to being dealt with adequately, leave alone being curbed.

Terrorists strike at will. People die in each terror attack and we hear august and eminent public persons speak of the need for new laws which would be more effective than the ones that failed to serve the purpose.

It is not that the existing laws are bad, per se, in curbing terror but the law enforcers and prosecutors have failed in bringing the perpetrators of terror to justice. It is possible that some points here and there could require a bit of tweaking. But it is manifest that poor policing and shabby prosecution are behind the poor record in this regard.

But we chose to give the dog a bad name, shoot it and get another.

It is like complaining that the roadside dhaba's cook familiar with the tandoor is not able to serve a delightful gastronomic preparation from the Waldorf. It is bound to be lousy if attempted. And that is what has been happening in this country.

So, Mr Moily, I would beg you to cease and desist from pushing this idea of a new law and ask the country's enforcers to get their act together and earn an honest livelihood instead of giving them a new law to play with. If you and the government persist with this idea, I promise you that it would be yet another pointless step which another committee after a few years would seek to damn and seek an improved -- and in your words, 'different' -- law. No end to it.

To start with -- because your panel is called the Administrative Reforms Commission -- you should ask that the police change their ways. It does not need a big set of new laws but merely an 'either/or' direction that they perform or face consequences. What they are would have to be decided but dismissal from service should be one of the prescriptions. Once out of a job, they would stand to lose the loot they routinely take home under the belief that a uniform is a licence to be thugs.

The thuggery called policing is enough to deal with the poor citizen who is anyhow hapless and is forced, thanks to the unbridled use of third degree measures, to confessions that can help convict a person on charges of theft or even murder. The convictions are surely a result of fear infused in the hapless citizens.

That kind of policing can keep the statistics clean but not be able to deal with terrorism. Combating terrorism needs a passion among professional police personnel which can be possible with a combination of good intelligence and a basic network of informers.

These two are lacking, and mere use of the stick to make so-called suspects belch out confessions to be used as suggested by the ARC would only make for better statistics without addressing the larger issue of getting to the root of the terror and terrorists. Making confessions made to police officers admissible in courts is negating the need for proper scientific investigations.

In short, the need for proper policing is being thrown out of the window and that is quite awful. The problem is not being addressed at all.

So what's the point, Mr Moily?


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