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Govt rules out bringing back POTA
Published on 19 Sep. 2008 1:02 AM IST
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The Indian government Thursday firmly ruled out the return of a stringent anti-terror law it had repealed four years ago and said the existing statute would be strengthened to deal with extremism. “No, no, no. I can tell you POTA will not be brought back. The existing law is adequate. If there are any legal loopholes, these will be plugged,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said. He was briefing reporters on the deliberations of a special cabinet meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired late Wednesday in the wake of a spate of terror bombings in the country - including five serial blasts in the capital last Saturday. “POTA was draconian. There is no question of bringing it back,” the minister maintained. The United Progressive Alliance government, soon after it came to power in 2004, had repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) that the previous National Democratic Alliance government had enacted. In doing so, the government had also amended the then 37-year-old Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to give it more teeth. POTA had replaced the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act that was enacted in 1987 and which was described as the first legislative effort to define and counter terrorism. The act was allowed to lapse in 1995 following widespread complaints about its misuse. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been repeatedly demanding the return of POTA following the terror bombings in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi that have claimed scores of lives and injured hundreds more. Manmohan Singh had referred to the need for tough anti-terror laws during his address to the Governor’s Conference here Wednesday, even as he decried the politicisation of the issue.“We are actively considering legislation to further strengthen the substantive anti-terrorism law in line with the global consensus on the fight against terrorism,” he said. “Unfortunately the public debate on the issue had tended to get driven by politics, and has centered on certain laws enacted or repealed by governments of different political persuasions,” the prime minister added. According to Dasmunsi: “Some of our laws are tougher than even that of the UK. What could be tougher than that?” Meanwhile, BJP party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters that “the cabinet briefing today morning by P R Dasmunsi was depressing for the nation. He said the government has no plan to bring in a POTA-like law which clearly manifests UPA’s lack of will and commitment to fight terror.” The UPA rule has seen around 50 terror attacks and loss of many lives, “which itself is a proof of the incompetancy and unpreparedness of the government to fight the menace of terrorism”, he alleged. Asked if BJP would support the government in its initiative to introduce a federal law to fight terror, Javadekar said it would be decided “when it happens”.

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