Gujarat Govt in process of formulating new law to strangulate freedom of expression, dissent

copsBy Gautam Thaker*

Gujarat Government is in the process of tabling before the Gujarat Legislature Assembly in its forthcoming budget session, a new enactment “Gujarat Protection of Internal Security Act (G-PISA). Under the proposed Act, police will be empowered to arrest any person merely on the basis of ‘suspicion’, that he can potentially endanger the internal security. Under the provisions of ‘G-PISA’, arrest made, merely on such ‘suspicion’,  shall be considered as a cognizable and non-bailable crime. Proposed Act shall deal with terrorism, insurgency, communalism and caste based violence which imperil internal security.

Moreover, both private and public places shall be covered under surveilance of electronic devices and CCTV cameras. Simaltaneously, there is a provision that Government can make arrest of any person without any kind of complaint and undergoing legal procedure. All such things  shall be allowed, without any kind of warrant under the Proposed Act.

Bent upon choking any type of dissenting voice, Gujarat Government is expeditiously tying to implement G-PISA Act to throttle the voice of critics and opposition party. Government wants to suppress all types of dissenting voice and to snatch away basic minimum human right of expression. Following the protest by opposition parties and civic societies against harsh provsions of GujCTOC, H.E. President, Pranab Mukherjee had not okayed it. Moreover, APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil also had returned the GujCTOC for required amendments. In it, it was clearly written that serious provisions in that Bill were violative of fundamental rights of the citizens.

Similar Internal Security Protection Act (Bill), 2016 aimed at dealing with challenges posed by Insurgency, communalism and caste based violence was also tabled in the Legislature Assembly of Maharashtra. Under that, it was provided to arm the police with wide powers but when the draft of this Act was circulated on public domain for debate / discussion, but in the wake of wide spread protest by civil liberty and human rights groups, opposition partie including Government’s own ally Shiv Sena, the proposed bill was withdrawn. The said Bill was identical to the “MISA” which was one of the harshest laws of independant India. The new Act was merely its ‘rechristening’ or resurrection. On one had, it was provided under the MISA to make an arrest  without prosecution but on the other hand it tended to convert entire state of Maharashtra in to a ‘Glorified’ jail. After all, in the wake of wide spread public protest, the attempt for enacing such a ‘black’ Act in the name of ‘MIPASA’ did not succeed.

Following its failure in Maharashtra, process has been started to enact G-PISA in Gujarat and its misuse can result in suppression of civil liberties and freedom. It is clearly visible that with such an Act, Government is trying to hit hard on the civil liberties of people of Gujarat. Existing laws are adequate and effective to ensure internal security of the nation. Moreover, prevalent ‘Prevention of Damage to Public Property’ and criminal laws are enough to maintain law and order situation and there does not appear any need to formulate new law like G-PISA. Taking into account news reports, proposed Act contains severely harsh provisions to initiate actions against castes groups and communal forces.

All crimes under the purview of the new Act shall become non-bailable and people can be arrested merely on a ‘suspicion’. By installing surveilance system like CCTV camera, at private places including residence, office etc. Government shall be able to keep watch or vigil. Further, Government shall be allowed to tap telephonic conversation of any body. This is merely an illustrative talk on the some provisions which have been made available.

To oppose such an intention on Government’s part, concerned citizens and civic societies shall have to give united fight in a non-violent way. Government’s tendency to suppress political opposition including the civil movements is really serious. Awakened people – concerned citizens should become active to raise protest, like in Maharashtra, to nip in the bud such a proposition. No act or law which aims at harming fundamental rights of the people can be allowed to subsist. By arousing pubic awareness, maximum protest of this G-PISA which tends to annihilate human values and democratic principles, should be launched in a peaceful, constitutional way, on the path professed by Gandhian ideology.

*National President, ndian Radical Humanist Association; General Secretary, PUCL Gujarat


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