Laws to fight terror get more teeth

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 18 2008, 04:05am hrs
Stringent provisions in the new legislations introduced by the government in Parliament on Tuesday have proposed that suspects picked up for engaging in terror activities can face detention without bail for up to six months, marking Indias resolve to combat the scourge in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

The National Investigating Agency bill, 2008, introduced by union home minister P Chidambaram in the Lok Sabha, will have concurrent jurisdiction empowering the central government to decide what constitutes terror and will also cover violence relating to militancy, insurgency and Left wing extremism. Through a federal agency that the bill aims to set up, the government can investigate all offences bomb blasts, hijacking of aircraft and ships and attacks on nuclear installations. The government will have the power to freeze, seize or attach funds and other financial assets of individuals or entities listed as terrorists and those who are suspected to have involvement in terrorism.

Another bill, the Unlawful (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2008 proposes tough deterrent clauses including enhanced penalty of life imprisonment and preventive detention of up to 180 days instead of 90 days at present. The UAPA bill will apply to anyone not only in India but even in foreign countries, ships and aircraft where Indians are attacked.

The measures come even as a fresh debate has been initiated on whether Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive in the Mumbai attacks, should be allowed legal aid or not.

The legislations have incorporated stringent provisions including clauses which say that no accused can be given bail without the prosecution being heard and further bail can also be denied if the court feels that the charges against the accused are prima facie true. The provisions are even harsher for foreign nationals who have entered the country illegally and unauthorisedly and picked up on suspicion of involvement in terror acts, as their bail then gets automatically denied.