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Lok Sabha passes bill to amend POTA

December 16, 2003 21:56 IST

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act to prevent its misuse.

It was passed after a noisy walkout by almost the entire opposition barring the AIADMK. In between, some members of the Samajwadi Party and Congress also trooped into the well of the House.

In a division insisted by the AIADMK after the walkout, 257 voted in favour while 10 against the amendment.

Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani said the government's stand on POTA had been vindicated with the Supreme Court upholding its constitutional validity.

Earlier, moving the bill, Advani rejected demands for repeal of the law and appealed to state governments not to misuse it against political opponents.

He said the powers of the POTA Review Committee had been included in the original law and this amendment only sought to clear misgivings that the committee's directions were not binding on the central and state governments. The amendment specified that if a Review Committee concluded that the law is not judiciously used, all the actions taken in that particular case would be considered withdrawn.

Asserting that the Review Committees' decisions would be binding on the executive, the deputy prime minister said, on the other hand, the judiciary was supreme. "We are a legislative body but we cannot override what the judiciary says," he said.

Advani said the Justice B B Saharia Committee was not the only Review Committee set up under POTA. Eight states - Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat - have also set up such committees.

Reacting sharply to the opposition's viewpoint that nothing had been done to curb terrorism, Advani said, soon after coming to power in 1998, the Vajpayee government had established contact with several countries across the world emphasising the dangers of terrorism.

Even before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, the government had formed Joint Working Groups (JWGs) and signed Mutual Assistance Treaties and Extradition Treaties with several countries, but the campaign only received momentum after 9/11, he said.

The House rejected by a voice vote a statutory resolution moved by Communist Party of India-Marxist member Basudeb Acharya and 10 other opposition members disapproving of the amendment to POTA.

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