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ESSAY : POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act)
Thursday, 20 June 2013 02:46


POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act)

 

“Till Sept. 11 2001, the increasing number of incidences of International Terrorism, Couldn’t awaken the US and the world from the slumber of overconfidence of their intelligence, and their preaching to soothe the wounds of the suffering nations was a routine political mechanism for them.”

The terrorist struck on the US’ heart and sold on Sept. 11, 2001 made everyone aware to the rave menace of international terrorism and compelled the nations all over the world to initiate urgent measures to fight the devil.

The terrorist attack on Indian Parliament on Dec 13, 2001 made every leader vulnerable to any such attack and the urgency of taking measures against growing terrorism became more serious. On Sept. 21,202 the United Nations Security Council passed resolution seeking all nations to enact laws to curb terrorism. The U.K. had already passed Anti-Terrorism Act 2002 and India followed her by issuing Prevention of Terrorism ordinance (POTO) on Oct. 25, 2001.

The promulgation of POTO triggered boisterous debate and controversy in different segments of the political arena. The opposition stated it to be the black mark in the ruling coalition’s way of governance. The main point of opposing the POTO was the fear of misuse of the ordinance, as experienced in case of TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act) and other such detention laws enacted earlier which were grossly abused to suppress the voice and views of the political opponents. The so called advocates of minority communities, were raised lot of hue and cry on the same grounds.

After independence several such laws were passed by the Union and State legislatures as per the requirements or whims of the ruling party, for varying purposes like Prevention of Detention Act 1950, Maintenance of Internal Security Act 1980, Terrorist and Disruptive Act 1985. POTO the ordinance was promulgated to create a feeling of fear of gross penalties in the minds of terrorists and their accomplices, after an attack was made on Indian Parliament, later on became an Act in 2002, popularly called Prevention of Terrorism Act POTA.

TADA v/s POTA

POTA and TADA are not identical Acts. TADA also covers the disruptive activities while POTA covers on the terrorism activities. POTA allows appeals against rejection of bail in High Court while a detainee under TADA, could appeal  before the Supreme court only. POTA also lessens the victim’s rigours beyond the first year of detention and reduces the period of detention without a charge sheet.

POTA’s scope extends beyond the terrorist to terrorists organizations and their supporters and accomplices who by definition are not terrorists, but supports the terrorists indirectly. The POTA empowers the government to tap telephone and other communication medias of the accused. Government could also confiscate the proceeds and remunerations of the accused, he received for committing acts of terrorism. As such POTA has more harsh and ruthless provisions than TADA to some extent.

POTA

Under the prevailing situation of growing terrorism in the country and worldwide none could dispute the necessity of appropriate laws to curb the terrorism. Surely, the safety and security of the nation is of paramount importance and when the neghbouring countries are supporting and mobilizing the terrorism in our country, it is but natural to have some dreaded laws to tackle such as the retaining situation. Though in a large democratic country like India, many times opposition is made only for the sake of opposition, yet for any act to be acceptable, must have reasonable fringes so that innocents are not made the victim to square up one’s political or personal scores.

The Act does not define the term ‘terrorism’, which caused a fear of misuse among the minority community particularly.

Section 3 (8) and 14 of POTA attracted strong protests of National Human Rights Commission and the media in general. Under these Sections an accused can be imprisoned upto one year or be fined or both penalties be imposed, if the accused is failed without reasonable cause to disclose any information in his possession which could prevent a terrorist attack. The journalists feared that this provision can well be used against them.

Under this Act, the Central Government has power to notify any organization as practicing terrorist’s activities, by naming such an organization in the schedule under the Act. This provision can also be misused, feared by the minority community.

In order to avoid and prevent the misuse of POTA, the Central Government constituted a review committee headed by former justice Arun B. Saharya, under Section 60 of the Act, to take a comprehensive view of the use of POTA in various states and come up with its findings and suggestions to ensure that the Act was invoked only for combating the terrorism and not against an ordinary criminal under section 60 of POTA, the Central and State Governments shall wherever necessary constitute review committee for the purpose of the Act, the broad power of review is provided under Section 19 and it relates exclusively to the review committee appointed by the Central Government. Under the Provisions of Section 19, an organization can be denitrified from the lists of terrorists organization.

Recently an amendment to POTA was passed in the Lok Sabha to prevent and revert the misuse of POTA. It is important to note that MDMK leader Mr. Vaiko was jailed by Jaylalitha government under POTA. Mr Vailo’s crime was to allegedly express support for the LTTE designated as a terrorist organization. On the same day the Supreme Court delivered a judgement whereby upholding the validity of the law, but t the same time laid down a host of guidelines about the way the Act should be read. One can’t be charged under POTA unless it is proved that the accused has the criminal intention of aiding terrorist organization. While that may get Mr. Vaiko off the Jayalalitha hook, the law still remains open to abuse. How does one for example determine when similar verbal support for outlawed groups became full blow ‘aid’? Dose the hosting of lectures or rallies in support of the Jaish-E-Mohammed for instance amount to support or aid?

The Apex court also upheld that individuals can’t withhold information about terrorist activities; can one be sure that there won’t be a repeat of the fiasco that involved Delhi university lecturer S.A.R. Geelani? POTA despite the removal of a fang, here and there, remains a flawed law.

In Indian perspective POTA is misused less, but got criticized much and in a democracy where opposition is always in search of an opportunity to criticize the ruling party it is inevitable. The much type raised by minority community that most of the accused under POTA belongs to minority community; it also reflects that the criminals of minority community receive support from their clan members in India. Can we imagine without direct or indirect support from here, can anyone from outside commit any act of terrorism? If it is not termed as impossible, then can be termed as difficult task. India is a secular country where everyone has the right to follow religion that Nation is on priority over the religion. The politicians who misuse POTA to score their personal vendetta must realize that politics of vengeance never pays in long run.

In nutshell POTA is the necessity of hour but it must not be misused. Nation’s safety and security has paramount priorities and POTA is meant to make the nation safe, secure and united.