Parliament on Thursday passed a bill that seeks to expand the definition of "terrorist act" to include offences that threaten the country's economic security amid a walkout by Left parties, Janata Dal-United and Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2012, passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha today, also extends the period of ban on an organisation from two years to five years. Lok Sabha has passed the bill earlier.
The amendments seek to include procurement of weapons, raising funds for terrorist activities and counterfeiting Indian currency under the definition of a "terrorist act."
Replying to the debate, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh said the amended law will not be misused. "This bill is against terrorism and terrorists. I assure that the bill is religion neutral...Terrorism is not just about guns, it is also about attack on a country's economy," he said.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said an individual, group of individuals, an association who are involved in counterfeit currency circulation will be covered under the law and is not against innocent people.
BJP had sought an amendment in the bill to include NGOs under it so that their foreign funding also comes under scanner for its misuse in terrorist activities, but later withdrew it. The CPI-M amendment seeking to take trade unions out of the purview of this Act was negated by a majority 79 members out of 107 present. 28 members voted in favour of the amendment.
During the discussion, a number of members mainly from JD-U, RJD, Communist Party of India and CPI-M expressed serious apprehensions over the law granting extra powers to police and its misuse against members of a particular community, caste and trade unions.
Many members also asked government not to pass the bill in haste and have a rethink. They demanded that the bill be sent to the select committee for seeking views of members of various parties by holding wider consultations.
Some members also termed the law as "draconian", saying it will become another tool in the hands of police to harass innocents.