By Gautam Thaker*
The controversial anti-terrorism GUJCTOC Bill, which had been rejected twice by the UPA government has been returned to the Gujarat government by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, while asking for some more information on it. After the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crimes Bill has been returned to the Gujarat government, the Home Ministry has informed that it has withdrawn the Bill. Hence, it is believed that for the time being, this Bill has been kept in abeyance. With the return of this Bill, it can be said that it signifies victory on the part of justice-loving people of Gujarat, concerned organizations and especially the minority community.
During last 15 years, i.e. in the years 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2015 GUJCTOC was passed or pushed through on the strength of majority votes in the Legislative Assembly and forwarded to the President of India, as many as four times and the same has been returned by Presidents Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and now by Pranab Mukherjee. It has been done so because of certain provisions in the Bill, which were construed as unconstitutional and illegal. The said Bill was frequently rejected and returned by the President, considering certain provisions, including intercepting telephonic talks of the citizens, validating of statements made before the Police Official by the accused, as equivalent to statement deposed before the Court of Law etc. as unconstitutional and illegal.
Political accusations were going on regarding GUJCTOC Bill for years together. It was also told that the then Modi Government of Gujarat had frequently leveled allegations that the UPA government, and especially the Congress Party, is not supporting the Gujarat government to curb terrorist activities. Today, when there is one and the same ruling Government both at Gujarat and at the Centre, and even then this Bill has been rejected which goes to prove that this law which attempts to assail on the human rights and civil liberties, would obviously not be sanctioned.
As per the provisions made in this Bill, Police cannot put any kind of restrictions on the constitutional rights and liberties of any person. This point has been evidently proved once again. It appears that legal experts have, after detailed study of limitations of the law, constitution of the country and civil liberties, have provided appropriate and wise counsel to the President.
Since many similar laws are already in existence, imposing strict restrictions or rigorous control over terrorism and terrorist acts there does not appear to be further need of any new law. Upon minute and in-depth study and keeping in view, constitution of India, this Bill, prima facie appears to be really unconstitutional and illegal, because apart from provisions of other laws, there is clear violation of IT Act and Indian Telegraphs Act. By conferring wide powers to the Police, terrorism in the country cannot be prevented. If Police takes actions against criminals with sincerity and honesty, then peace and stability can be easily established.
Gujarat government states that it is their first priority to maintain peace, security and safety in the State and for that they are in need of such wide powers. The State government needs such wide powers in view of 1,600 km long coastal area together with extensive area bordering with Pakistan. The professed purpose is to strengthen and sharpen the claws of the law to fight against terrorism.
Even after passage or enactment of dangerous laws such as TADA and POTA, it is not possible to contain or control the terrorism. Terrorism cannot be prevented or controlled merely by enactment of laws. The need of the hour is to impartially implement the existing laws. None of the laws, which assails on the fundamental rights of the citizens can subsist or survive in the country. Nor can one approve of provisions of the articles, which are against the spirit of civil liberties. None in the government should at all overlook or give a go-by to the crucial point of defending and upholding civil liberties and human rights.
*General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat