Press Trust of India
Monday, December 15, 2008 9:16 PM (New Delhi)
The Union Cabinet on Monday approved amendments to the law to provide for a tough legal framework and the setting up of a National Investigating Agency (NIA) to combat terror.
The Cabinet, which had an unscheduled meeting, gave its approval to the proposal to amend the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the setting up of the NIA, an official spokesman said.
He said the bills would be introduced in Parliament in the current session.
Sources said a proposal for a law with POTA-like provisions was not favoured at the cabinet meeting with most of the ministers from both Congress and its allies, particularly, LJP and RJD were not inclined to it.
Union Law Minister H R Bharadwaj said such a law might not stand in court. Some felt that such a law would be misused by the states. Home Minister P Chidambaram said the Centre has its power in such matters, the sources said.
Ministers, including External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, said such a law was misused in the past.
Chidambaram said a signal should go that the government is serious. The ministers felt the message could well be conveyed by making a federal agency and bringing in the amendments.
Sources said Cabinet members did not favour the idea of inclusion of clauses like accused having to prove his innocence and confessions before the police as evidence in the court of law, which were there in the POTA.
The Cabinet also approved a proposal for amendment to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Act.
There were no details available on what the CISF amendment was but it comes amid demands that key private sector installations be given security cover by the paramilitary force that guards state-owned facilities, installations, and undertakings besides airports.
The Cabinet decision comes in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks after which the government has expressed its determination to put in place a tough legal framework to combat the menace.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram have told Parliament that the government would set up a National Investigating Agency that will probe terror cases at the federal level.
Since the law and order is a state subject, the proposed amendment may give the Centre overriding powers over the states in case of terrorist attacks like the Mumbai mayhem.
Opposition BJP has been demanding tough anti-terror POTA-like law, which Congress and the government had been rejecting.
But ever since the Mumbai attacks, the government has also talked of strengthening the legal framework to combat terror.